Everything you need to know about SXSW 2022 COVID-19 health and safety measures
The city’s mega-festival South by Southwest (SXSW) has updated its 2022 attendance guidelines to reflect Austin’s evolving COVID situation. In order to maintain credentials throughout the festival, attendees, registrants, and wristband holders will be required to show proof of a CDC-approved round of vaccinations or a negative COVID test taken within three days. preceding the withdrawal of credentials, according to the SXSW website.
Those going the vaccine route will need to download CLEAR Health Pass, the mobile app that SXSW partners with to verify proof of vaccination. Once a guest checks in with the app and completes the advance checkout, they just need to view the app to get their credentials. However, attendees from outside the United States will still need to bring their physical vaccination card. Reminders, while encouraged, are not necessary.
For those considering providing negative tests instead, the process is slightly more complex. SXSW bases its testing protocol on Austin Public Health (APH) risk-based guidelines. As of this week, the city reduced the city’s risk level to stage two due to fewer cases and hospitalizations (the fifth level is the most restrictive).
Still, with that in mind, initial testing should be done at least 72 hours before retrieving SXSW credentials, and retesting should be done every seven days for the duration of the festival. If the city moves to higher tiers, the retest window is reduced to five days in stage four or three days in stage five. The entire conference spans 10 days, from Friday March 11 to Sunday March 20, with events ranging from panels to films to concerts.
PCR tests or rapid antigen tests will be accepted, and they must all be verified tests, but there is no mention on the official website on which tests are considered verified, and SXSW representatives have not responded to requests for clarity. The site mentions that the Austin Convention Center (one of the main venues) will have a free testing center open in Exhibit Hall 2 for the duration of the festival, with PCR and rapid antigen testing available.
Masks will be required despite vaccination and testing status for all events taking place in conference rooms and indoor exhibits, as well as in registration and pre-function areas. SXSW notes on its website that affiliate sites may require masks if they want, and other interior spaces will strongly encourage them but not require them. The CDC recently relaxed its rules on masking, nearly two years after the agency first recommended implementing strict mask mandates.
In January, SXSW first announced its COVID-19 safety procedures and guidelines required for badge holders to attend the massive conference and festival that draws hundreds of thousands of people to the city over the course of two weeks. This will mark SXSW’s first year of in-person events following its abrupt cancellation in 2020 and going all-digital in 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Major festivals have handled in-person gatherings during the COVID-19 crisis in different ways. The South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Florida returned in 2021 with a much scaled-down approach, including a contactless ticketing system, temperature checks and capacity restrictions. All the same protocols were in place during the recent festival event in 2022 to mitigate the potential spread of COVID. On the other hand, major music festivals like Coachella and Diligencewhich both take place in California later this year, will not apply any type of vaccination, masking or COVID-19 testing protocol.
Prior to the pandemic, SXSW welcomed hundreds of thousands of festival-goers each year, with more than 400,000 attendees from more than 100 countries in 2019. Eater reached out to SXSW and APH to comment on this year’s expectations, but did not hear from response at time of editing.
Update, March 4, 2022, 12:16 p.m.: This story, originally published on March 2, has been updated to reflect Austin’s current risk stage, which was reduced to stage two earlier today.