When four concertgoers who attended a Grateful Dead cover-band show in Felton last month tested positive for Covid-19, it set off a new wave of self-imposed safety measures across Santa Cruz County.
So when Talal Janbay, co-owner of Scopazzi’s Restaurant in Boulder Creek, got wind from a waitress that she’d caught Covid alongside teammates on the Joe’s Bar softball team, he decided they better shut down temporarily.
“We closed for four days just for precautions, for the safety of our employees, the safety of the customers,” Janbay says, adding that after their regular off days, they’re planning to reopen Wednesday for outdoor-only service. “We don’t want to take a chance.”
And when they do start cooking again, there will be new rules for staff.
“All our employees coming next week, the ones that want to come, they either have to be vaccinated, or tested on a regular basis,” he says. “Most of the employees now, they’re getting vaccinated.”
Janbay wonders if their employee’s infection was part of the spread from the Felton Music Hall outbreak, after Los Angeles-based Grateful Shred played a pair of weekend dates July 17 and 18. The first was held outdoors at Roaring Camp, and there are no reports of Covid cases coming out of that event.
But at least nine people (including the band) out of the 291 attendees at the second performance, held inside the Felton Music Hall, came down with Covid, says Thomas Cussins, owner of the venue.
According to Cussins, at least one of the infected people emailed Felton Music Hall afterward claiming to be vaccinated.
“This is a very trying time as a small business,” says Cussins, noting that he closed the club, required all staff to get tested, and mandated masks for future shows. “Having this happen is just devastating.”
Santa Cruz County spokesperson Jason Hoppin says the people who are most seriously affected by Covid are those who haven’t been vaccinated.
“That’s why we would encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” he said. “It does keep you out of the hospital or the morgue.”
The Grateful Shred had just come off playing the Moroccan Lounge in downtown L.A. on July 15, and at Libbey Bowl some 80 miles northwest of L.A. on July 16.
A week after the first Felton concert, the band posted an Instagram update saying that, in addition to fans testing positive, “Nearly all of the band and crew have also tested positive and are at home recovering with their families.”
The band urged attendees to quarantine if experiencing symptoms.
“Apparently the vaccine does not prevent transmission,” the post reads. “But fortunately, it does seem to really help with reducing sickness and preventing hospitalization.”
Instagram user @gratefulstardust, aka Bradley Stockwell, replied to the post saying he attended both LA-area shows and tested positive the following Tuesday—despite being fully vaccinated.
“Had fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms,” he said, reporting that he’s “all better now except I still have no smell. Get vaxxed and be safe everyone!”
IG user Holly Bailey (@mother.planter) said she also tested positive after the Moroccan show.
Colleen (@cocoriggs) commented that she attended a Felton performance, but said “it felt way too crowded” and that she left after about 20 minutes.
“I’m fully vaccinated and tested positive,” she wrote. “I wish I had masked up. I will in the future.”
Hoppin said health officials are investigating whether a lack of airflow in the Felton Music Hall is what allowed the virus to spread so quickly.
“The ventilation is not exceptional,” he says. “That may have been a contributing factor.”
But the venue has been “very helpful” in the aftermath, according to Hoppin. Felton Music Hall plans to reopen on Thursday, Aug. 5.
Fifth District Supervisor Bruce McPherson said he understands some residents don’t want to get vaccinated due to privacy or health worries, but urges those people to at least get checked frequently.
“Be tested for it,” McPherson says. “That’s just a civil thing to do.”
MaKendree VanHall, a manager at Greater Purpose Brewery in Santa Cruz, says the Felton outbreak played into the restaurant’s recent decision to begin requiring proof of vaccination for indoor seating.
“We’re just going to be proactive instead of reactive,” he says, noting none of their staff has tested positive before adding, “Get the damn vaccine! You can quote me on that.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed course on some of its mask-wearing guidance, recommending that fully vaccinated individuals in areas of the country with high Covid-19 infection rates should wear masks indoors. And several neighboring counties took that a step further on Monday, mandating that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, had to resume wearing masks indoors in public settings.