Harry Styles' recent concert at the Xcel Energy Center was one of the biggest arena shows in the Twin Cities since the onset of the pandemic. It also included maybe the most stringent COVID protocols to date for a large, indoor concert: proof of vaccination or negative test, plus mandatory face coverings.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), as it does with all large events, has been monitoring for COVID infections linked to the Sept. 22 show, during which nearly 18,000 Styles fans packed the arena.
So far, MDH has found just two such cases, at a time when community spread in the Twin Cities and across the state remains high.
The 27-year-old Styles announced the show's COVID requirements about a month beforehand, saying the rules were "for the health and safety of everyone attending Love on Tour."
The Xcel Energy Center allowed concert attendees to upload their proof of vaccination or a negative test prior to doors opening. They could also show proof at the gates. Prior to the opener, a prerecorded message from Styles reminded everyone to wear a face covering.
A spokesperson for the Xcel Energy Center said the venue did not track the number of people who showed proof of vaccination vs. negative test for the sold-out show, due in part to the "variety of ways" people could demonstrate either. They weren't aware of anyone being turned away for failure to show one or the other.
"Overall we consider the night a great success and we were able to welcome guests into the arena in an efficient and timely manner," the spokesperson added.
MDH, referencing the continued presence of the delta variant, said a "multi-layered approach" to COVID protections is "critical." That means getting vaccinated, wearing a mask while among crowds, social distancing and staying home while ill.
"We know these measures can work to reduce the spread of the virus," MDH told Bring Me The News, noting Styles' show remains below the threshold to be considered an outbreak. "Venues or events that have employed them strongly have been able to reduce the risk of COVID considerably."
The case number at this point is preliminary, as two weeks out isn't quite enough time to offer a clear, final picture (COVID cases linked to the State Fair began to tail off after three or four weeks). And as with any event, there may be gaps. These figures are based on people who tested positive for COVID, and attended the event in question during their "likely exposure period" — it doesn't mean they necessarily contracted the virus during the event.
MDH is also only interviewing about 25% of individuals who tested positive, the department said, and those they do talk to may not always provide complete information about their activities just prior to contracting COVID.