Tulum is gearing up for the Zamna Festival, a 17-day dance music festival and potential COVID superspreader event

ILast week, The Daily Beast revealed that Art With Me, a wellness music and dance festival taking place November 11-15 in Tulum, Mexico, was a COVID-19 superspreader event, with several attendees and performers contracting the virus to pack, party hundreds of people and bring it back to Miami and New York.

“I would say 60-70% of my positives over the last two weeks in New York are a direct result of people returning from Art With Me or being directly exposed to someone who attended Art With Me “, said Eleonora Walczak, founder of the private COVID care and testing company Checkmate Health Strategies. “And I’m also testing in Miami, and my testers there tell me a lot of their positives are people coming back from Art With Me.”

But even as the impact of this fiasco was felt, locals braced for more trouble: a two-week-plus music festival starting on New Year’s Eve.

As COVID devastated Mexico, killing more than 110,000 people and infecting more than 1.2 million – the highest case fatality rate in the world at 9.2%, according to at Johns Hopkins University-the party didn’t stop at Tulum. Tourists, mostly from the United States, Europe and South America, descended on the seaside municipality in groups to dine, dance and flout COVID restrictions.

After the Art With Me story aired, I received a number of emails from people in Tulum expressing their fear and concern about the upcoming Zamna Festival, a dance music performance scheduled for December 31 through January 31. 16. With tickets nearly sold out, thousands of tourists are expected to attend the 17-day “immersive electronic experience,” dancing in droves to a series of DJ sets.

The pandemic holiday of tourists in Tulum has angered locals, who believe their behavior is recklessly endangering the community, and many believe Zamna could end up being another public health disaster.

“The hotel zone has been very busy,” offered Michael*, an American expat who lives in Tulum who asked that his last name be withheld for work reasons. He revealed tourist ravers were documenting their party in Facebook and WhatsApp groups. “Many digital nomads have come to Tulum since Southeast Asia kicked them out. They’re mostly all Americans, and being a local, we avoid them because they don’t wear masks, monopolize the space of the restaurant and not spending money so we can’t wait for them to leave.And it’s a crowd that really parties too.

On Nov. 16, Tulum Mayor Victor Mas Tah announced there would be no more large-scale events in his municipality of Quintana Roo, citing an Oct. 31 shooting at the popular Vagalume Beach Club that caused two dead and three injured. More than 500 people were present that evening. Despite the tragedy, DJ parties filled with hundreds of revelers raged in cenotes (underground caves), nightclubs and other venues in and around Tulum. Given that the mayor himself owns a stake in a popular cenote/place in Tulum called Casa Tortuga and the area’s economy depends on nightlife, it’s unclear if there will ever be a real repression of major events.

“It’s pretty well known that our mayor, Victor Mas Tah, has a big cenote/party spot called Casa Tortuga, and there are a lot of parties there,” Michael explained. “They don’t call it ‘bribes’ here, they call it ‘tips’. But our view of these parties is that it destroys the calm, destroys natural habitats, and then they leave.

Zamna festival organizers have repeatedly declined to comment on this story. The Daily Beast also sent an email to all members of the Quintana Roo government listed on their website (including Victor Mas Tah), as well as the US State Department, asking for comment on the Zamna festival and the party in Tulum. As various members of the Quintana Roo government repeatedly circled us, switching The Daily Beast to a seemingly endless string of representatives, the US State Department issued a statement:

Conditions vary by location and we continue to urge US citizens to exercise caution when traveling internationally due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic. U.S. citizens planning to travel internationally should review the full travel advisory for their destination(s) on Travel.State.gov.

The US State Department has also highlighted the CDC travel advisory for Mexicowhich is currently at its highest level (4), and recommends that “travelers should avoid all travel to Mexico” because “travel may increase your chances of contracting and spreading COVID-19”.

Health experts who spoke to The Daily Beast strongly advised against attending any type of large-scale gathering, let alone a dance music festival where the possibility of social distancing and mask-wearing seems at risk. better unlikely.

It is difficult to enforce public health measures, as drugs and alcohol are also involved. This is very concerning, as we are at an inflection point.

“COVID is not controlled in the United States or Mexico at the moment, and so even if the event is taking place outdoors with fewer numbers than usual, it is very concerning, because people are not cannot socially distance in these spaces and generally do not wear masks,” said Dr. Preeti Malani, an infectious disease physician at the University of Michigan. “It is difficult to enforce public health measures, as drugs and alcohol are also involved. This is very concerning, as we are at an inflection point.

Although young people are less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID, they may be the demographic group most responsible for spreading the virus right now and delaying a return to normalcy.

“Are they on a different planet than the rest of us and don’t they realize there’s a pandemic going on?” Dr. Timothy Brewer, a professor of epidemiology at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health and Medicine, said of those attending dance parties in Tulum. “Throughout the country, 18-49 year olds are conduct this pandemic. This is where about 60% of infections occur. And hospitalizations are increasing even more than deaths. So some of these 18 to 49 year olds end up in the hospital…or could even die of this disease.

The pandemic party in Tulum has divided members of the dance music community, with some DJs accepting gigs and others foregoing paydays to err on the side of caution.

Soloiist, a Mexican DJ who will perform on the opening night of the Zamna festival, told The Daily Beast that Zamna “is so important to the electronic community” because Tulum “is one of the only places in the world where winter looks like summer”.

He defended Zamna’s COVID protocols – urging mask-wearing and social distancing; temperature checks and antibody tests (which do not capture active infection) – although Art With Me had similar guidelines and still suffered a massive outbreak. Soloiist also cited South Korea as a place that has hosted thousands of electronic dance parties. When called back that the COVID situation there is quite different from Mexico, he replied, “Yeah, it’s not the same,” adding, “It’s been almost a year of lockdown, and it’s been difficult. I know people can’t wait to get out. It is a very complex and difficult subject.

Another DJ – who requested anonymity to avoid being blacklisted – said he believes players in the EDM world should prioritize the local community rather than offering an escape potentially fatal.

“As a DJ who normally works in Tulum at this time, it pains me that so many Europeans and Americans are still flocking to the site unconcerned about the implications for the local population,” they said. “We know that poor communities are the most vulnerable to complications and deaths from COVID-19, and local people in Tulum and other cities in Mexico will ultimately pay the highest price, for what? For a few nights of dancing and drugs? It infuriates me that these people don’t see the seriousness of the problem and are willing to put other people’s lives at risk for their own personal gain. Is it really important to party? No, it never is.

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