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A massive "drive-in" Chainsmokers concert in the Hamptons over the weekend has sparked a state investigation and drawn a ton of backlash online. But a handful of concertgoers told BuzzFeed News that they felt "very safe" and that they did not feel at risk for contracting or unknowingly spreading the coronavirus by attending.
The concert in Water Mill sold ticket packages starting at $850. VIP access went for as much as $25,000 and included an RV. The event's website declared that all proceeds will go toward local and national charities.
An estimated 2,000 people attended the concert on Saturday. And while many Chainsmokers fans boasted on social media about their unique and exclusive concert experience, a video originally taken by someone onstage with the band, and was later shared to Twitter, has people concerned about the potential health risks an event of this scale could pose.
Specifically, people are concerned that a crowd gathered in what appeared to be a pit section were not properly socially distanced. Social media photos on the ground showed widespread distancing between people partying on or near their cars in their designated lots, but the photos taken of the pit at night do not show clear markings of where and how crowds were controlled.
On Monday, after BuzzFeed News reported on the concert, the state of New York launched an investigation into the event and if, or how, the Town of Southampton issued a permit for the concert despite New York's Declared State of Emergency banning non-essential gatherings of more than 50 people.
In the Know Experience, one of the main organizers of the event, said that there were dividers separating individual parties in that contested pit area, and that "guests were also instructed that they would not be allowed to leave their designed spots for any reason other than to use the restroom."
A rep from the venue also provided BuzzFeed News with images taken inside of the pit that showed where black retractable belts were used as an attempt to rope off groups of 10 fans at a time.
"There were steel barricades and dividers separating each section in the front viewing area with groups of ten guests, with marked spots to stay within and security guards positioned in front to enforce that masks were being worn," the rep said.
Three people who attended the Chainsmokers concert on Saturday confirmed that they saw some kind of barrier or restrictive boundary inside the pit.
"Everyone was social-distancing and being responsible," said Jamie Books, a resident of Southampton. "We had an amazing time and hope to see more events like this," she added.
Those who couldn't see into the pit, but were either partying on top of near their cars, said they "felt very safe" attending the concert.
"There were a ton of security guards making sure people weren't leaving their designated areas," added Sierra Smith, another concertgoer. "[I] felt very safe and it was a ton of fun."
Furthermore, the rep for In the Know Experiences told BuzzFeed News they "collaborated with all state and local health officials to keep everyone safe."
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.
The rep and at least five concertgoers stated that everyone was required to have their temperatures checked upon entering the "drive-in," and that hand sanitizer and masks were readily made available.
"The event organizers followed all proper and current protocol," they said, adding that public bathrooms were also cleaned every 10 minutes.
Still, the special Chainsmokers concert being held amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the US has critics ridiculing attendees for risking other peoples' health, as well as their own.
State officials have also aired concerns about the event and what precautions were taken.
In a letter sent Monday to from New York's Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to Southampton Town Supervisor, Jay Schneiderman, Zucker said he was "greatly disturbed" by the incident.
"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," Zucker wrote.
As part of the inquiry, health officials are also trying to find out whether any town officials were at the concern and if "it was allowed to continue when it became clear violations were rampant."
Despite many accounts from those who attended on Saturday insisting that all proper protocols were taken, and that they would want to attend another big party/concert, experts are warning against it. A mass congregation like this one is "really difficult to have in a safe manner," said Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
"Anytime you have a mass gathering, you have to worry about the virus spreading. I do think a drive-through will decrease the risk ... but there will never be a zero risk," Adalja told BuzzFeed News. "At a concert, people are going to scream and chant and create mass droplets, so that's going to be a challenge."
"A general mass gathering is not advisable to have during this environment," Adalja added, but he does think if "aggressive social distancing" measures are enforced, it can be done more safely.
"If you do it in Miami, it's probably not a good idea," he added, noting Florida's alarming recent surge in cases.
Pamphlets circulating on social media advertising the Chainsmokers' first Hamptons show listed "other major cities to come," including Miami. But the rep for the concert venue company could not say if these other cities were yet confirmed.
People online are tweeting directly at the venue, preemptively begging them to cancel the potential Chainsmokers tour stops during the pandemic.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to the band for comment.