Organizers of music festival, Modernism Week have watchful eye on Omicron variant as events approach

The disappointing but understandable news that this month’s Palm Springs International Film Festival was canceled has those anticipating other significant events in the city nervously watching COVID-19 data and hoping for the best.

Representatives for both the Oasis Music Festival and Modernism Week said Monday their events are still on but they are prepared to change their plans based on guidelines implemented by various governmental bodies.

“At this point, we do not expect Modernism Week to change,” said Bob Bogard, director of public relations for O’Bayley Communications, which handles publicity for Modernism Week, “but we are monitoring the local, regional, and national situation very carefully.”

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Modernism Week is currently scheduled for Feb. 17 through 27 and is expected to attract thousands of visitors to the city to attend 350 events. The Modernism Week Fall Preview, held Oct. 15 through 17, was “the biggest and best one yet,” according to Modernism Week Executive Director Lisa Vossler Smith.

While the city was still battling the Delta variant of the disease in October, evidence showed a summer surge in COVID cases in Palm Springs had crested. However, the Omicron variant that arrived last month does not appear to have peaked. Scientists say it is much more transmissible, but it is far less deadly for those who are fully vaccinated, including a recommended booster.

Data released Monday by Riverside County health officials shows reported COVID cases in Palm Springs doubled week-over-week, going from 70 to 158. The most recent reported sampling of city wastewater, taken Dec. 21, shows more than 5,200 people who were in the community may have had COVID, an increase of 4,400 from a sample taken Dec. 14.

There are signs of hope that the Omicron variant surge, while much larger than the Delta surge, will crest before the month is out. If it does, organizers of the Oasis Music Festival, scheduled for Jan. 26 through 30, may be breathing a sigh of relief bigger than anyone else in the city.

The music festival, a benefit for the restoration of the Plaza Theatre, is scheduled to take place at more than two dozen venues in the city and feature an eclectic lineup of artists, from indie folk acts to jazz musicians.

“Currently, everything is moving forward as scheduled, but we are closely monitoring the situation in Palm Springs,” said Jen Schuman, marketing manager for Palm Springs Life, which is presenting the festival along with Agua Caliente Casinos. “We are all hoping that this thing peaks and is done with before the event … but we are at the point that we are moving forward however Palm Springs allows us to.”

City officials have not called for the formal cancellation of any events to date. The city continues to implement the Coachella Valley’s strictest regulations, including proof of vaccination for indoor diners.

Some business owners and others have proactively changed their plans, choosing to wait out the spike in COVID cases even without a formal ask. The Purple Room Supper Club announced Sunday it would close for two weeks; AsiaSF/Palm Springs canceled a planned New Year’s Eve celebration; and Dezart Performs, a local theater company, delayed its season-opener and shortened its entire season.


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