Coronavirus: Neil Young pulls out of Farm Aid 2021 amid COVID-19 concerns

Farm Aid co-founder and board member Neil Young announced late Wednesday that he will skip the 2021 event, slated for Sept. 25, citing his concerns about the current nationwide COVID-19 surge and especially the threat it poses for children.

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“I find myself wondering whether Farm Aid will be safe for everyone with the (COVID-19) pandemic surging. I worry about that. I don’t want to let anybody down, but still can’t shake the feeling that it might not be safe for everyone,” the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee wrote on his Archives website.

Farm Aid has raised more than $60 million since 1985 to support programs that help family farmers thrive and expand the markets for their food, Billboard reported.

The announcement came as a number of artists have canceled, postponed or rescheduled tour dates amid a nationwide COVID-19 surge, fueled primarily by the highly transmissible delta variant.

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By midday Thursday, the United States had reported nearly 3 million new COVID-19 infections within the past 28 days, resulting in more than 14,000 deaths. The virus has infected nearly 37.2 million people nationwide, resulting in nearly 625,000 fatalities, since the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

“My soul tells me it would be wrong to risk having anyone die because they wanted to hear music and be with friends,” Young, 75, wrote, noting the decision is a personal one he does not expect fellow musical icons and Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews to follow.

“While I respect Willie, John and Dave’s decisions to stick with it and play, I am not of the same mind. It is a tough call,” he added.

Young had been slated to play in the Connecticut festival alongside the trio and a host of others, including Margo Price and Sturgill Simpson, British entertainment website NME reported.

The event would have been Young’s first public show since the Sept. 21, 2019 Farm Aid at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin, Billboard reported.

“Since we know vaccinated people can catch and spread COVID, I worry about the children who could become infected after Farm Aid, just by being with someone, maybe a parent, who caught the virus at Farm Aid and didn’t know it. There are already too many children in hospitals,” Young wrote.

U.S. children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and roughly 1,800 children were hospitalized last week with the virus, a 500% increase in the rate of pediatric hospitalizations since July, Billboard reported, citing U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

“All you people who can’t go to a concert because you still don’t feel safe, I stand with you. I don’t want you to see me playing and think it’s safe now. I don’t want to play until you feel safe, and it is indeed, safe,” he added.

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