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Coachella fest in October? One national expert says 'realistically, we're talking fall of 2021' due to coronavirus

The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) logo The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) 4/15/2020 Shad Powers, Palm Springs Desert Sun

The Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival, along with its country cousin Stagecoach, have already been postponed from April to October due to the coronavirus pandemic and associated public health concerns. But recent developments are casting doubt on the viability of autumn shows. 

The announcement of the postponement of the concerts that bring in close to 100,000 music-lovers each year was made by producer Goldenvoice on March 10. Since then, public health concerns have heightened with much of the nation slowed to almost a halt under shelter-in-place orders in an attempt to slow the spread of the deadly virus. And experts are starting to caution that the return of large concerts like a Coachella or Stagecoach is unlikely to happen in 2020. 

a group of people on a stage: The sun sets over the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., on Sunday, April 14, 2019. © Thomas Hawthorne/USA Today Network The sun sets over the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., on Sunday, April 14, 2019.

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The first indicator came last week, when Burning Man, a large convergence of fans of artistic self-expression in a desert in Nevada, announced that it was canceling its 2020 version (though an online version will still happen). That event was scheduled for Aug. 30 to Sept. 7. The new Coachella dates had been set for just one month later, Oct. 9-11 and Oct. 16-18. 

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Is it realistic to think Coachella will happen in October? One national expert on how the United States will rebuild after coronavirus fears lessen said not a chance. 

"Larger gatherings — conferences, concerts, sporting events — when people say they’re going to reschedule this conference or graduation event for October 2020, I have no idea how they think that’s a plausible possibility," said bioethicist Zeke Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives and director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, told New York Magazine. "I think those things will be the last to return. Realistically we’re talking fall 2021 at the earliest." 

So if Emanuel's prediction is correct, Coachella and Stagecoach not only won't happen in October, but not even in April 2021.

Emanuel explained that there will be different levels to the re-opening of the economy, and that places where a 6-foot distance can be kept likely will be back in action first. 

"Yes, restarting the economy has to be done in stages, and it does have to start with more physical distancing at a work site that allows people who are at lower risk to come back," he said. "Certain kinds of construction, or manufacturing or offices, in which you can maintain six-foot distances are more reasonable to start sooner."

A request for comment from Goldenvoice has not been returned. 

Music fans looking for a glimmer of hope for a quicker return to live music events can look to Milwaukee. Organizers of Summerfest — originally set for June 24 to July 5 and now scheduled for Sept. 3 to 5, 10 to 12 and 17 to 19 — announced that headliner Sam Hunt has been rescheduled for the Sept. 4 date

Shad Powers is a columnist for The Desert Sun. Reach him at shad.powers@desertsun.com.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Coachella fest in October? One national expert says 'realistically, we're talking fall of 2021' due to coronavirus

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