This past Friday, July 30, Saratoga Springs music venue Caffè Lena was dealt a bad hand, when it was discovered that a fully vaccinated member of folk quartet Darlingside, who performed at the venue twice to two capacity crowds in the same evening, had tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m writing with important news for everyone who attended our concert on Friday, July 30,” wrote Caffè Lena’s Executive Director Sarah Craig to Friday’s show attendees on August 1 around 7pm. “I have been informed that a vaccinated member of Darlingside tested positive for COVID-19 this weekend. This person did not have symptoms.”
At the Friday shows, at which this reporter was present for the late show, the venue boasted that it was welcoming in its first full-capacity crowds in since COVID hit, for both the 6:30pm early show and 8:30pm late show. It’s unclear whether either show was at sellout/full capacity. Capacity at the venue, sans staff, is 110.
All members of the audience, at both shows, were required to provide proof of being fully vaccinated and were asked to remain masked, at least until they got to their tables. Many members of the audience, at least during the late show, ordered food and drink, which required them to pull down or remove their masks entirely to eat and drink. At least for the late show, only a few members of the audience remained masked throughout the entire show, while the majority of audience members had their masks down or completely off for the duration of it. Masks were then donned again as audience members left the venue.
Craig continued: “I have had a preliminary conversation with the NYS Department of Health. Because the infected person and you have both been vaccinated, the risk of transmission is low and this exposure does not require you to quarantine at this time. However, they encourage you to get tested on Tuesday or Wednesday to be sure you are not carrying the virus. Don’t get tested earlier than Tuesday because the results will not be valid.”
This comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updating its indoor masking requirements for residents who live in areas that have been deemed either of “substantial” or “high” risk for transmitting the COVID virus, regardless of vaccination status. (This is due, in large part, to the recent spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which causes mild COVID symptoms in fully vaccinated individuals.) To that end, as of last Thursday, based on its seven-day rolling positivity rate, Saratoga County had been deemed a “substantial” COVID transmission threat (in Saratoga County, more than 57 percent of residents are fully vaccinated; 63.2 percent have received at least one jab).
To date, no new indoor mask mandate has been ordered by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. That has left the CDC’s latest directives up to the discretion of residents or businesses.
Craig added: “I will follow up with the Saratoga County Department of Public Health when they open on Monday morning to report the incident and to get any further instructions. I will be in touch if there is anything more they want you to know. COVID-19 symptoms include fever, chills, headache and body aches. However, as was the case on Friday night, we know you can be symptom free and still have the virus. Please get tested so you don’t unwittingly spread COVID-19 to an unvaccinated or high-risk person. If you want more information on COVID-19 and how to get tested, call the Saratoga County Health Department between 9AM and 4PM Monday through Friday at 518-584-7460. I am so sorry this happened despite all our precautions. Please let me know if you have any questions or need my help in any way.”
From April 2020 onward, Caffè Lena had been one of the lone music venues in the Capital Region able to remain open during the pandemic, thanks in large part to its state-of-the-art, in-house digital video system, which allowed the venue to beam live, audience-less performances to fans via its YouTube page. A little less than a year later, the venue reopened on April 2, 2021, at dramatically reduced capacity, to live, in-house audiences.