The Lakes Area Music Festival in Brainerd has canceled the remainder of its performances due to COVID-19.
The free classical music festival, which kicked off its summer series about two weeks ago, was forced to cancel the remainder of the season after two artists tested positive for COVID-19, even though they were reportedly vaccinated, Artistic and Executive Director Scott Lykins said on Friday, Aug. 6.
"Our season began with optimism and enthusiasm. We were confident in our return to live performances with the knowledge that all of our artists are vaccinated and 98% of ticket holders reported vaccination," Lykins said, noting they'd adjust safety plans due to the variants, so artists and the audience were required to wear masks and the artists were tested daily for COVID-19.
"It is with deep regret and with the safety of our LAMF community in mind that we must cancel all remaining activities of our 2021 season," Lykins said. "In this time of uncertainty, our commitment is to ensuring the safety of our audience and artists. This was a heartbreaking decision to make, and we know it is the only way to protect the community that we love."
Lykins said they would continue to be transparent about this decision and any ongoing health concerns.
"We know this news raises a lot of questions, and we honor our commitment to transparency by providing as many answers as we can when they are available," Lykins said.
This is the Lakes Area Music Festival's 12th season and was set to be featured on the new stage at the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts in Brainerd, with each event available via livestream for those uncomfortable attending in person. The season was scheduled to run through Aug. 22, and marked a return to in-person concerts after artists performed virtually in 2020.
Lykins told the Brainerd Dispatch the festival couldn't pivot to continuing the festival for audiences via livestream only because they can't ensure the safety of all performers, noting singers, woodwind and brass musicians cannot wear a mask.
The festival draws 200 musicians from some of the nation's top orchestras and opera companies each season. Those who traveled to Brainerd by car could drive home to quarantine, while others will stay in town and be tested to ensure they don't test positive for COVID-19 before they travel, Lykins told the paper.
Cases of COVID-19 are surging again across much of the U.S. due to the delta variant, especially among people who remain unvaccinated. Although breakthrough cases can happen (where a fully immunized person gets COVID-19), Minnesota health officials have said the vast majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated.