Dan Mielcarz (ColForbin here at Phish.net) has a doctorate in Microbiology and Immunology from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. He is currently the Director of DartLab, the immune monitoring and flow cytometry shared resource at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, NH. We asked him to write a short piece on staying safe at indoor shows.
With fall tour and indoor shows upon us, some of you may be wondering what the best practices from a COVID-19 safety standpoint might be. As an immunologist, I was happy to see Phish change from a free-for-all at the beginning of summer tour to requiring vaccination or a negative test. This makes for a much safer environment for the band and fans alike. Vaccination is the number one way to stay healthy in the pandemic. If you aren’t vaccinated you are taking a huge unnecessary risk, so please, get the shots. And if you are eligible, get a booster. The sooner you get your shots the better, as peak protection takes at least 1 week past the second (or booster) dose.
Also, please do not come to a show if you are feeling sick. At the very least, take a rapid antigen test (I like the BinaxNow brand) if you have any symptoms and only attend if you are negative. I know how excruciatingly hard it is to miss a Phish show you have been looking forward to for years, but skipping a show when you feel sick is one of the most selfless acts a person can make in 2021, and will be repaid down the road, I assure you.
Beyond vaccination and staying home if you feel sick, what is the number one thing you can do to stay safe at a Phish concert this fall? Wearing a mask. In the words of the band themselves: “We strongly recommend that you wear a mask at Phish shows when social distancing isn’t possible.” When is social distancing not possible at an indoor Phish show? Everywhere. So you need to wear a mask everywhere. Universal masking will protect you, other fans, and the band. I know Trey continued his tour when some members of his band got infected, but there is no way that will happen with Phish.
Here’s a short FAQ about masking at indoor shows:
“What type of mask should I wear?”
Studies show that the order of effectiveness of masks are N95>KN95>Surgical>Cloth. In fact, in a huge randomized controlled trial in Bangladesh, cloth masks showed no reduction in COVID-19 transmission. My recommendation is to wear at least a surgical mask, and for maximum protection a well-fitting KN95. If you have a funky cloth mask that you want to show off, put it over a surgical mask. The consumer product review site The Wirecutter has a great guide on where you can find high quality masks.
“When should I wear my mask?”
The entire time you are at the show. And in hotel rooms of people that you don’t live with. And in public bathrooms. And in casinos. And in taxis, shuttle buses, subways, planes, and rickshaws. But not outside in the open air.
“What if I want to eat or drink or smoke at the show?”
My advice is to not eat or drink or smoke at the show. But of course it will happen. If you must, pull down your mask briefly, take a sip or bite, then put it back up. Ideally, you should find a less crowded area of the venue in which to do this. Also, maybe eat an edible before the show instead of repeatedly and deeply inhaling and exhaling in a crowded venue during a pandemic.
“Masks are hot and annoying, I don’t want to do this.”
That’s not really a question. But yes, it kind of sucks wearing a mask at a show. If the entire country wasn’t experiencing high community transmission I might have different advice. But getting COVID-19 – even a breakthrough infection – is far more than just annoying, and could have dire consequences for you and your loved ones.
"But Trey just sang 'Take off your mask'"
That's a metaphor for the self-concious version of ourselves that we present to the world, and the attendant anxieties that come with keeeping it in place. By all means, let your metaphorical mask drop when Trey sings Sigma Oasis. Just keep your literal mask on your face.
“I’m vaccinated, and wearing a mask. May I have a great show?”
You should have an amazing show! May all your jams be 20 minutes, except for the 30 minute ones.
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