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September 25, 2021

Covid-19 outbreak linked to show at Felton Music Hall

At least four concertgoers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus after attending a Grateful Dead-themed performance in Felton, although none had to be hospitalized, Santa Cruz County health officials said Tuesday.

“That meets the definition of an outbreak,” said Santa Cruz County spokesperson Jason Hoppin, explaining that designation is given after three cases pop up in one place. “It sounds like there may be more.”

Los Angeles-based Grateful Shred played a pair of weekend dates in Felton on July 17 and 18. The first was held outdoors at Roaring Camp, but there are no reports of Covid-19 cases coming out of that event, authorities said.

However, at least nine people (including the band) out of the 291 attendees at the second performance held inside the Felton Music Hall have come down with Covid-19, said Thomas Cussins, owner of the venue, who organized both shows.

At least one of the infected people emailed the venue to say they’d already been vaccinated, Cussins confirmed.

“This is a very trying time as a small business,” he said, noting he’s closed the club, for now, ordered all staff to get tested and mandated masks for future shows. “Having this happen is just devastating.”

Hoppin said the people who are most seriously affected by Covid-19 are those who have not yet been vaccinated.

“That’s why we would encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” he said. “It does keep you out of the hospital or the morgue.”

Grateful Shred’s July 18 show included “Rider,” “Eyes of the World” and “Alligator,” according to the setlist posted on their website.

They’d just come off playing The Moroccan Lounge in downtown LA on July 15, and in Ventura County at Libbey Bowl in Ojai on July 16.

An Ojai Recreation Department employee contacted by the Press Banner said she was unaware of any Covid-19 cases emerging from the band’s performance at the Libbey Bowl, an outdoor venue. She said future shows are still going ahead.

A week after the first Felton concert, the band posted an Instagram update, saying that, in addition to fans testing positive, “Nearly all of the band and crew have also tested positive and are at home recovering with their families.”

The band urged attendees to quarantine if they feel sick.

“Apparently the vaccine does not prevent transmission,” the post reads. “But fortunately, it does seem to really help with reducing sickness and preventing hospitalization.”

Instagram user @gratefulstardust, aka Bradley Stockwell, replied to the post saying he attended both LA-area shows and tested positive the following Tuesday—despite being fully vaccinated.

“Had fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms,” he said, noting he’s “all better now except I still have no smell. Get vaxxed and be safe everyone!”

IG user Holly Bailey (@mother.planter) said she also tested positive after the Moroccan show.

Colleen (@cocoriggs) commented that she attended a Felton performance, but said “it felt way too crowded” and so she left after about 20 minutes.

“I’m fully vaccinated and tested positive on Friday,” she wrote. “I wish I had masked up. I will in the future.”

Hoppin said health officials are investigating whether a lack of airflow in the Felton Music Hall is what allowed the virus to spread so quickly.

“The ventilation is not exceptional,” he said. “That may have been a contributing factor.”

But the venue has been “very helpful” in the aftermath, according to Hoppin.

Hoppin said there are around 196 active Covid-19 cases in the county—although he says that’s probably an undercount. In addition, four people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 in the county, including two in ICU beds, Hoppin said.

Fifth District Supervisor Bruce McPherson says he’s looking forward to chatting with Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel to learn more about the outbreak, and recommends locals who haven’t been vaccinated yet get the jab.

“I can understand about the privacy rights,” he said. “I can understand people who don’t want to do it for their own health reasons.”

But even those groups should get checked frequently for the virus, he emphasized.

“Be tested for it,” McPherson said. “That’s just a civil thing to do.”

MaKendree VanHall, a manager at Greater Purpose Brewery in Santa Cruz, said the Felton outbreak played into the restaurant’s recent decision to up Covid-19 precautions again.

“I got wind that it was happening, but I didn’t know how bad it was,” he said, adding on Tuesday he found out the Felton Music Hall incident had technically been deemed an outbreak. “We can’t survive another wave of this, economically.”

Greater Purpose announced it would start requiring proof of vaccination for indoor seating the following day.

“We’re just going to be proactive instead of reactive,” he said, noting none of their staff has tested positive before adding, “Get the damn vaccine! You can quote me on that.”

The same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course on some of it mask wearing guidance, recommending that full-vaccinated individuals in areas of the country with high Covid-19 infection rates should wear masks indoors.

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