City of Austin approves ACL health and safety plan, holds off on final permit

Photo of people attending ACL Fest
The Austin City Limits Music Festival is scheduled across two weekends in October. (Courtesy Roger Ho/ACL Fest)

The Austin City Limits Music Festival is scheduled across two weekends in October. (Courtesy Roger Ho/ACL Fest)

Austin Public Health approved Austin City Limits Music Festival's health and safety plan, bringing the event one step closer to receiving a final permit, the city of Austin and festival organizers announced Sept. 21.

APH approved festival organizers' existing plan requiring ACL guests to provide a negative COVID-19 test result dated no earlier than 72 hours before entry to the event. Fully vaccinated ticketholders may show proof of vaccination in lieu of a negative test result, the city confirmed—a detail that was ambiguous in the city's latest special event permitting rules.

ACL also announced for the first time that masks would be required in certain areas of the festival.

"As required by city of Austin Order 20210811-033, masks will be required in areas of Zilker Park where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, including on festival shuttle buses; entrance lines; areas closest to the stages; and in the limited indoor areas at the festival, including our on-site merchandise store. Free masks will be available at each entry gate," ACL said in a news release.

A final permit for ACL has yet to be approved, however.

"Even though the health and safety plan was approved, final approval of the event is still contingent on the ability to support the health care and safety system," the city of Austin said in a statement. "The strain on local medical services impacts the city’s delivery of emergency-related services and creates a situation where a special event may substantially interfere with the provision of city services required to support government functions including police, fire or emergency medical services departments. These impacts may affect the ability of a special events permit to be issued separate of an event’s individual COVID-19 health and safety plan."

Conditions in the Austin-area health care system remain strained, with a seven-day moving average of 218 coronavirus patients in area intensive care units—above the allotted 200 for COVID-19 care. However, APH Director Adrienne Sturrup said the health and safety plan ACL submitted is mindful of current conditions.

“ACL Festival organizers submitted a COVID-19 health and safety plan that is sensitive to the current strain on our health care system and includes strategies to reduce the need to transport patients to local hospitals," Sturrup said in a statement.

Austin Center for Events representative Sara Henry said earlier this month that it is not unusual for ACL's permit to be approved in the days before the festival, noting that in 2019, a final permit was issued Sept. 26. In the meantime, preparations for the event have already begun at Zilker Park.

ACL's first weekend is scheduled for Oct. 1-3, followed by a second weekend of concerts Oct. 8-10.
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.


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