Burning Man revelers returning from the desert with lifelong memories, and COVID

Staff and attendees are recovering from more than ‘playa lung’

Burning Man’s annual gathering in the Nevada desert has never been easy on people’s lungs. The fine dust and sand coats every surface and enters every crevice, often causing respiratory symptoms attendees refer to as “playa lung.” But COVID was also present on the playa this year, and just how much is just becoming clear now, as the cleanup begins.

Many of those dusty revelers who returned over the past week from the festival, which officially ended on Labor Day, are discovering their sore throats and slight coughs are not just the the normal symptoms after a particularly hot and dusty week of partying — it is also COVID in many cases.

“The party is over, and now the cleanup has begun,” said Dan Abbott, a former Bay Area resident and long-time Burning Man participant, “and people are getting sick.”

There are no official numbers on how many festivalgoers became infected. But many attendees have posted on Twitter and Reddit that they tested positive during the exodus, or a few days after getting home. Some left early after testing positive, and a few threads in the Burning Man community on reddit encouraged those returning from the festivities to test themselves, as the ranks of those testing positive in the days after grows.