The threat of the coronavirus is raising concerns ahead of Coachella, leading to dueling petitions — both for and against cancellation — on change.org, a website where users can start issue-oriented campaigns.
A petition calling for the cancellation of Coachella appeared Tuesday and has received more than 4,000 signatures as of Friday morning.
"As a highly inclusive community, we are responsible to protect each and every community member, which include the ones who are elderly, fragile, or the ones who suffers from chronic diseases, cancer, immune system diseases and other form of disabilities," wrote Stella Young, who started the petition, in the description. "The lives of these people should not be down-played and we shouldn't risk their lives since they have a higher chance catching COVID-19 and develop critical situations that need to be hospitalized."
An outbreak of the coronavirus at a Washington nursing home has underscored elderly people’s vulnerability to the virus. In Seattle, King County is recommending, but not requiring, that people in higher-risk groups stay home and away from large groups if possible. Higher-risk people include those 60 and older, people with underlying health conditions, people who have weakened immune systems and pregnant women.
The Seattle metropolitan area has been at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., with 31 cases and nine of the country's 11 deaths. Most of the victims have been patients of a nursing home in suburban Kirkland.
Already, the coronavirus has spurred cancellations of conferences and large-scale events like Ultra Music Festival, an outdoor electronic music festival that had an attendance of 170,000 in 2019. South by Southwest Festival in Austin was canceled on Friday afternoon.
But not everyone agrees with Young's campaign.There is also a petition against canceling Coachella on change.org, with under 200 signatures as of Friday, started by Richard Davis on Wednesday.
"If you want it canceled just sell your ticket," the description says.
Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County's public health officer, said Thursday that he has not instructed any large-scale events, including Coachella, to cancel. He said the county is in "regular communication" with Goldenvoice, the Los Angeles-based company that produces the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its country music counterpart Stagecoach over three weekends in April.
About three hours after Thursday's press conference, Goldenvoice announced Stagecoach's lineup — another indicator that the music festival is set to go on as planned.
California had reported 53 confirmed cases of coronavirus and one death as of Wednesday, according to the state Department of Public Health. More than 9,400 people who returned to the U.S. through the San Francisco and Los Angeles international airports are self-monitoring for symptoms, according to the department.
While the Riverside County public health department has not reported any cases of the virus, a Riverside County resident who was passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for coronavirus and was treated at a Northern California medical facility.
If the virus situation evolves and Kaiser does make an emergency declaration to shut down Coachella or another major event, he said, "we would do with as much lead time as possible to enable these vital components of our economy to continue to take place in later years, while keeping their attendees and all residents of Riverside County safe."
He said he considers issuing an emergency declaration to cancel an event a "drastic move."
"I would not take that action lightly," he said. "We'd rather work with them, rather than impose that on them."
Contributing: Lindsay Schnell, Rebecca Plevin, Melissa Daniels and Colin Atagi