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Is It Safe to Go to Small Concerts in Colorado Right Now?

Live music is happening again across the state. We asked an infectious disease specialist what you should be looking out for should you choose to attend a show.

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It’s been six months since you’ve been able to see your favorite artists perform an ear-splitting guitar riff, perfectly pitched falsetto, or show-stopping dance move in person. You’ve been streaming bands awkwardly playing tunes from their living rooms. Maybe you’ve even broken your speakers—as well as annoyed your neighbors—maxing out the volume on your stereo in an effort to simulate the feeling of being at a show. But nothing can replicate the feeling of live music.

The bad news: It’s doubtful you’ll be able to jam out with thousands of other fans at places like Red Rocks Amphitheatre or the Pepsi Center anytime soon, especially since Denver Arts & Venues is closing all of its facilities until 2021. There are, however, some performance spaces putting on pared down shows that follow the state’s health guidelines, which limit indoor gatherings to 100 people and cap outdoor events at 175 attendees. Before it closes at the end of this month, Red Rocks is allowing that many folks to attend concerts from the likes of the Colorado Symphony and Nathaniel Rateliff, and venues like the Mishawaka in Bellevue and the Larimer Lounge in downtown Denver are putting on concerts with significant restrictions.  

Those more COVID-friendly experiences could give you the dopamine hit that your broken speaker and YouTube concerts simply aren’t providing, but they still come with some risk. To help you decide whether it’s worth trying to see a show in person, we talked with Dr. John Hammer, an infectious disease specialist at Rose Medical Center about four factors to consider: 

Indoor vs. Outdoor

Hammer says indoor spaces pose significantly more risk than outdoor ones. That’s mostly because virus particles disperse more quickly in the open air. There has been some question whether that will change as the weather cools this fall, and while there hasn’t been significant research done on the topic, Hammer says it will still likely be safer to gather outside. “In general, viruses travel better in drier, cooler climates,” he says. “But if people are still wearing masks in the outdoor setting, the ability to better socially distance would likely override any marginal difference the weather creates in how the disease might spread.”

Venue Size

In a smaller space, you are likely to be closer to other guests, and you have less opportunity to move out of the way or create your own area where other people aren’t likely to go. “If you have 175 people at Red Rocks, I would imagine you could stay 30 to 40 feet from other people,” says Hammer. “That obviously becomes much more challenging when the square footage shrinks a great deal.”

Concession Sales

Purchasing food or drinks provides more risky points of contact, according to Hammer. That includes the actual exchange of goods or waiting in a line where staying six feet away from other people becomes more difficult. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, he says you should still be aware of how many people in the space have chosen to imbibe: “Alcohol certainly leads to a certain degree of inhibition. People get closer to each other naturally when they drink. That increases risk.”

Time Spent

This one is pretty simple: The longer you spend somewhere, the more likely you are to take your mask off for an extended period of time, accidentally get too close to someone, or just lower your guard in general. Basically, more time equals more chances to catch COVID, according to Hammer. So if you do go to a show, don’t linger. Enjoy your fill of music, and then head out. After all, you can always crank up the tunes in your car on the way home. 

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