The Malibu Chili Cook-Off Returns This Weekend

After a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malibu’s signature social event of the year is returning this weekend. But expect some changes as organizers comply with Los Angeles County Health Department guidelines.

One of the biggest changes you’ll notice at the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu Chili Cook-Off is tickets will not be sold on site. They must be preordered. Anyone at the door without a ticket will be directed to a website for ticket purchases. Upon entry, guests will be required to wear a mask, according to the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM) event website. It was unclear how mask wearing would be enforced. Expect a temperature screening upon entry, hand sanitizing stations throughout the venue, frequent sanitization of “high touch” surfaces including restrooms, and extra masks on offer.

A safety/medical risk management company was hired by the BGCM to help mitigate COVID-19, WMI Global, Inc.—the same team that oversaw the Tokyo Olympics. The Malibu Times made attempts to reach a spokesperson for WMI without success. BGCM has stated they are doing “due diligence to ensure a safe event, beyond what the county mandates.”

Although this is Malibu’s first organized large event since March 2020, with fewer than 10,000 attendees each day, it does not qualify as a “mega event” under county guidelines, so the mask requirement is put forward by the event, not a county mandate. Organizers said all food vendors would also be required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

The event will open on Friday, Sept. 3, and, for the first time ever, will run for four consecutive days: Friday, Sept. 3, from 4-10 p.m. (locals night); Saturday, Sept. 4, from 1-10 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 5, from 1-10 p.m.; and Monday, Sept. 6, from 1-8 p.m. Entry tickets are $15 per day or $55 for the whole weekend and must be purchased online. Tickets do not cover carnival rides or chili. Parking is $20 (cash only) and space is limited, with rideshares and LA Metro suggested.

Since vaccinations are not required for entry to the event, which typically attracts thousands of children under the age of 12 who are currently ineligible for inoculations, here are some recommendations from the LA County Department of Public Health:

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“For all large outdoor events (those with fewer than 10,000 attendees) it is strongly recommended that unvaccinated attendees wear masks when they are in crowded outdoor settings and when they are in sustained close contact with others whose vaccination status is not known.” The health department also suggested organizers “require customers to wear masks at concession stands if they are ordering or picking up food and/or beverages.”

Organizers gave assurances that extra masks would be available and that prominent signage will display COVID-19 best practices and guidelines on social distancing.

The Centers for Disease Control has used a six-foot barometer as a social distancing guideline to help slow transmission of the COVID-19 virus; however, the CDC also indicated six feet is not a hard-and-fast rule and has not officially updated a risk assessment for the newer and more highly transmissible Delta variant. Experts still advise to get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands often and stay away from anyone who is sick. Stanford University infectious disease fellow Dr. Abraar Karan has stated when determining one’s risk, “Think of this in terms of ‘more likely’ and ‘less likely’ rather than in terms of absolutes, like six-feet and 15 minutes (of exposure). The closer you are to others, the more likely transmission can occur.”

In the last 10 weeks, the Delta variant has increased and now accounts for 99 percent of new cases nationwide. All 50 states are reporting high community transmission. U.S. figures report 800 deaths nationwide daily, the highest daily death toll in five months. The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District recently reported 11 positive cases, with 130 staff or students quarantined. The month of August was Malibu’s hardest-hit month for COVID-19 ever, with 94 new cases reported among residents from Aug. 1-31.

Malibu Mayor Paul Grisanti said he thought the cook-off’s organizers were “doing the right thing” when asked about safety protocols and if he had concerns about the event in light of COVID-19.

“Well, it is an outdoor event, which is better,” Grisanti said. “The other thing is, they are doing a health check on the way in, they’re encouraging people to wear masks and they are also asking—hoping—people are vaccinated.” Grisanti also said the BGCM was trying to secure a mobile vaccination clinic to be on site (no details about his program or confirmation was available as of Tuesday, Aug. 31).

“I think that people who are unvaccinated and people who are at all concerned about gathering should stay home,” Grisanti added. “My wife and I are in the age category where a negative outcome is more likely. We wear masks religiously and, when wearing a mask, I would not be afraid to attend. I think they’re doing the right thing.”

This information is up-to-date as of Tuesday, Aug. 31, but organizers emphasized directives may change in the days leading up to the event. For more event and safety information, go to bgcmalibuchilicookoff.org/info-faqs.

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