A line of anxious concertgoers wearing fanny packs and pastel jumpsuits shuffled with anticipation outside the door of Meow Wolf on Saturday night. They were excited to attend the Back to the ’80s Prom concert at the Santa Fe hot spot, but, breaking with the style for the decade they were in costume for, everyone’s mouth and nose were covered with masks.
The past few months have proven successful for the reopening of Santa Fe and its businesses, and Meow Wolf is no exception. Emerging from a pandemic hiatus, the House of Eternal Return, as it’s known, opened up its doors this month to concerts. Performing artists were a popular attraction to the art installation before the pandemic, but the ability to hold them was hindered for the past 17 months. However, as the exhibit reopened, new protocols were put in place to ensure everyone’s safety.
Bending to New Mexico’s recently reinstated mask mandate, all visitors are required to wear a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-approved mask regardless of vaccination status. Although the exhibit space is open to full capacity, Meow Wolf takes COVID-19 safety a few steps further when it comes to the requirements for attending a concert. Because audience members are in close proximity and in an enclosed location, all guests are required to prove they are fully vaccinated by showing their vaccination cards. If an individual cannot get vaccinated, they must have a negative result from a rapid COVID-19 test or a PCR test for COVID-19. Additionally, if someone planning on attending a concert has symptoms of COVID-19, they are implored to stay home to prevent further spread.
An employee of Meow Wolf said they “have had a lot of positive feedback about bringing back the mask mandate,” and people going to the concerts have complied with the vaccination and COVID-19 testing requirements. In line for the Back to the ’80s Prom concert, many audience members said they supported Meow Wolf’s protocols, saying they were pro-vaccination for indoor events because it ensured everyone’s safety while allowing them to engage in the fun of normalcy. Many audience members also believed Meow Wolf’s rules and restrictions were scientifically based and intended to maintain the safety of those in attendance.
A young concertgoer named Plato, who declined to give his full name, said the efforts to protect visitors showed “great initiative” on Meow Wolf’s part, but he said the mask requirement was futile because he believed everyone in the audience was fully vaccinated. But he was happy to comply with the mandates because they are “recommended by the CDC, and there really isn’t any use arguing against it.”
Other concert venues in New Mexico are not currently following the same restrictions as Meow Wolf, but they aren’t far behind. At Isleta Amphitheater, tickets are sold to full capacity, and masks are only required for those not fully vaccinated. But amid the recent surge in coronavirus cases and updated CDC recommendations, the venue is making changes. Starting Oct. 4, all concert attendees will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative recent COVID-19 test, the same precautions as Meow Wolf.
Although the concerts at Isleta are held outdoors, the idea of not requiring masks or social distancing has raised concerns for some. After attending this month’s Maroon 5 concert at Isleta, Jessica Garcia of Santa Fe said “it made [her] very nervous” to be at a concert that was “sold out and completely packed with very few people wearing masks.”
New Mexicans’ concerns over safety at large events extend beyond state lines. New Mexico is not much of a hub for popular artists to perform live, so many residents travel out of state to see concerts. COVID-19 restrictions are different in every state, making it difficult to judge whether large gatherings in certain areas are responsible. For example, Ball Arena in Denver is a popular spot for New Mexicans to see big artists, many of whom are scheduled to perform there in the coming months. Although there is an enforced mask mandate at that venue, physical distancing is impossible, and no proof of vaccination status is required. Because an arena full of people does not feel safe during the current surge, some Santa Feans are returning or reselling tickets.
Josette Gurulé is a senior at the Academy for Technology and the Classics. Contact her at email@example.com.