New York officials have opened an investigation into a VIP fundraiser and Chainsmokers concert Saturday night after video emerged of what appeared to be lax social distancing among the crowd at what was billed as a “drive-in” event. The concert, which took place Southampton near the tip of Long Island, had an estimated 2,000 people in attendance.
“The Department of Health will conduct an investigation,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a Tweet Monday. “We have no tolerance for the illegal & reckless endangerment of public health.”
The concert was billed as a drive-in event, where guests would be allowed to sit outside of their vehicles to watch performances. “Safe & Sound will set the bar for a new era of immersive experiences,” organizers said. “This will be a safe and controlled environment, setting the bar for all events to come.”
Video from the performances tells a different story:
The Chainsmokers had a “Drive-in” concert last night.
No social-distancing during a pandemic. We may be doomed…pic.twitter.com/rreahTaK0p
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) July 27, 2020
Reaction has likely been amplified by the fact that New York City was the early epicenter of the coronavirus, only recently passed by other surging states in terms of case numbers. Suffolk County, where the concert took place, has seen 65,790 cases and 1,996 deaths per statistics on worldometers.info.
“The Chainsmokers had a “Drive-in” concert in the Hamptons last night…looks like social distancing was strongly enforced 🤦🏻♂️….when NY gets the inevitable spike just blame these rich selfish white people,” tweeted one critic. Tickets ranged from $850 to as high as $25,000 for VIP access and an RV to view the performance from.
Organizers say that there were dividers separating individual parties in the “pit” area and that guests were only allowed to leave their specific section if they needed to use the restroom – which sounds similar to a setup of a performance in Germany recently. There were also security personnel circulating through the area to ensure mask-wearing and distancing compliance. And most of the attendees were viewing the performances in drive-in fashion, in separated parking spaces rather than the pictured “pit”.
Health officials were not swayed by the defense of the protocols in place, per the New York Times.
In a blistering letter addressed to the supervisor of the town of Southampton, where the concert was held, New York’s health commissioner, Howard A. Zucker, wrote that he was “greatly disturbed” by reports that showed thousands of people standing close together and “generally not adhering to social-distancing guidance.”
“I am at a loss as to how the Town of Southampton could have issued a permit for such an event, how they believed it was legal and not an obvious public health threat,” Dr. Zucker wrote.
A flyer circulating on social media indicated that organizers hope to put together similar performances in other “major cities” including Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Nashville, and Chicago – all of which are COVID-19 hotspots.
yikes it looks like they’re planning on doing this in 5 more cities too 🥴 pic.twitter.com/hgQc2diWYB
— 𝕒𝕦𝕓𝕣𝕖🌼 (@sleepyiis_) July 27, 2020
As of Tuesday morning, the Chainsmokers have not responded to the backlash from their participation in the event.