Large, popular events like UT football games and the Austin City Limits Music Festival are likely to be on hold through the end of the year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The large events are the first thing we turned off and they're going to be the last thing we turn back on,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Health Authority with Austin Public Health.
Last fall a quarter of a million people crowded onto Sixth Street for the Pecan Street Festival. This September, organizers hope they'll be able to bring back the state's largest arts and crafts festival but think the event's small footprint is working against them.
“It is a compact downtown area. It is not spread out in a park. People are having to be so close together,” said Debbie Russell, executive director of the Pecan Street Association. “I think it's too early to say anything definitive about whether we should or shouldn't.”
Not according to Austin Public Health. Right now, Austin is in Stage Three of the city’s reopening plan. Austin Public Health says the city would need to see a significant improvement to start allowing big events with large crowds.
“We really have to get to that green level, that Stage One, before we are going to be willing to have any sizable events,” said Dr. Escott.
Dr. Escott says mass gatherings like the Austin City Limits Music Festival are unlikely to get the green light without an effective treatment for COVID-19 or the availability of a quick and easy test to identify who has the virus.
“If we identify ways to rapid test, such as through saliva that could be done at the gates before people go in, that's a potential factor,” said Dr. Escott,
Otherwise, major sporting events with fans in attendance and festivals aren’t likely to be scheduled through the end of 2020.
“Looking through the end of December we don't have any indication that at this stage that we would be able to mitigate the risk enough to have large events, particularly over 2500,” said Dr. Escott.
The Pecan Street Association says there will be a festival in September whether it's online or in person.
“We run on the brink as it is. We are looking at the city to help us. We're looking into other grants to help sustain us, so that if we have to go online again in the fall, we are able to hold a true festival by next spring,” said Russell.
An announcement is expected no later than June 30 on whether the Pecan Street Fall Festival will be in-person or online.