Update: The Burning Man organizers have decided to cancel this year’s event entirely.
Following in the footsteps of other large festivals this year, Burning Man’s organizers are considering requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for all attendees.
After cancelling the Nevada desert festival last year, the event’s coordinators are hesitant to call it off again for 2021, so options are still being worked out to keep attendees safe and compliant with state pandemic rules.
Other large festivals, such as Wasteland Weekend, have already decided to proceed with the event while introducing some high-tech precautions. One such precaution is IBM’s Digital Health Pass which allows attendees to prove their vaccination status without exposing sensitive personal information.
The Vacc cards are going to be like carrying copied IDs for burningman. Accept the current social contract if you want to play. My mom n dad had polio vacc cards. This isn’t anything new.
— Pistachio (@WhiteyFawks) April 21, 2021
Originally, Burning Man Project CEO Marian Goodell said in a video message on the event’s website that vaccines WOULD be required. She cited a Nevada law stating that all large gatherings require proof of vaccination, but that claim turned out to be incorrect and Goodell later acknowledged that she “misspoke.”
But Goodell and her team also realize that not every one has access to the vaccine, so they’re weighing all options. They hope to make a definitive decision about the vaccine requirement, and even the event itself, by the end of this month.
“We hear you,” she said. “The question of vaccines and how to basically require them, and even from a logistical standing, frankly — all of that, we’re taking a look at.”
Of course, last year’s cancellation and this year’s continued fears are hurting attendance numbers either way. Burning Man regularly sees numbers in the 80,000 range, but this year Goodell expects more like 60,000 to 65,000. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management may seek a 69,000-person attendance cap, anyway.
Still, Goodell is optimistic. “At this point, the government agencies involved in collaborating with us have been really super supportive and super helpful. They are not putting up any roadblocks. We are all looking at the resources to have to make it happen and get this done.”