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“Freedom Day”…But is it?

Photo by Josh Gordon on Unsplash

Here in California, it seems like just yesterday that we were back in clubs hugging our friends and throwing masks to the wind to revel on dance floors once again but is it safe to let our guard down now?

There have been reports of fully vaccinated club-goers, staff, and DJs contracting Covid-19 because of the new, highly contagious Delta variant. One club manager in Los Angeles confided, “We are using our opening DJs as headliners because everyone is out with Covid.” The source, who asked to remain anonymous, contracted the virus herself at her first week back at work. She was fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine months prior and went on to add that she knows at least fifteen vaccinated nightlife workers who got the virus regardless of their Moderna, Pfizer or J&J vaccine status. “There is no one to blame, it’s not that one vaccine isn’t working properly, it’s just that none of the vaccines are 100% effective and we are acting like they are.”

When a vaccinated person gets Covid, it’s called a “breakthrough infection” and though cases are being reported from politicians, athletes like the Olympians in Tokyo and several Yankees players, no one is talking about how the Delta variant is affecting nightlife and what we should do about it as a community.

According to the CDC on July 12th, there have been 5,492 hospitalized patients with Covid-19 vaccine breakthrough infections but these numbers are voluntarily reported and don’t represent the full picture. The more pressing issue is that the US Surgeon General announced this week that 99.5% of deaths from Covid-19 now come from those not vaccinated. Obviously unvaccinated folks are at much greater risk to contract and spread this variant which is 40-60% more transmissible than the original especially at clubs where we dance in intimate spaces and cozy up to hear one another over loud, thumping beats.

So what is a raver to do when we thought we were getting ahead of this thing? “Wear a mask,” said one Chicago DJ who played in the Bay Area this past weekend. “I went maskless for our first Thursday party out of quarantine but even the next weekend I was back to masks because with so many people out, it just felt high-risk.”

The news is unwelcome as clubs are just starting to rise from the ashes opening doors to the dancers, beat lovers, artists, and fashionistas that make our nightlife scene so vibrant. Other countries may have lessons for us to learn, however. Amsterdam fully opened clubs on June 25th and abruptly went into lockdown 2 weeks later when cases jumped eight-fold. What we thought would be possible, turned out not to be possible in practice,” Netherlands PM, Mark Rutte told reporters. “We had poor judgement, which we regret and for which we apologize.”

Meanwhile in France starting in August, anyone entering a café, restaurant, dance club, shopping center, or hospital, or taking a long-haul train, must show a COVID-19 health pass, President Emmanuel Macron announced on July 12, 2021, but some expect only 30% of clubs to reopen as owners deem the health protocol too strict.

July 19th was declared “Freedom Day” in the UK where all restrictions were removed for nightlife and hospitality even as their Covid-19 cases approach the same frightening levels as January’s peak. One DJ in London admitted, “In a way, clubs really shouldn’t open yet but it’s unfair to leave them closed while other hospitality venues open. The problem is that the government let the Delta variant run riot for a month without doing anything about it.”

The only constant is change and with many going unvaccinated, we can expect more mutations like the Delta variant in our future. As we navigate these pitfalls and unprecedented changes in our nightlife community we do hold one idea to be true: Not talking about it will get us nowhere. That is why Electronic Groove would love to hear from you  –our readers, DJs, and nightlife industry friends– on how Covid-19 is impacting your nightlife experience 17 months after the pandemic began. Please take our 10-question (anonymous) survey. There are no right or wrong answers. The results of our collective voice will be published in a subsequent article.

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