Metal band Great White apologizes for performing to a packed, maskless crowd in North Dakota

Great White members Scott Snyder, Mitch Malloy, Mark Kendall and Michael Lardie perform at the HEB Center in Cedar Park, Texas, last September.

(CNN)The metal band Great White has apologized for a concert that saw few masks in the audience and no social distancing.

"We understand that there are some people who are upset that we performed this show, during this trying time," the band wrote in a statement obtained by CNN of the performance in Dickinson, North Dakota, last Thursday.
"North Dakota's government recommends masks be worn, however, we are not in a position to enforce the laws. We have had the luxury of hindsight and we would like to apologize to those who disagree with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement," Great White stated. "We are far from perfect."
Great White performs in Dickinson, North Dakota, last week.
Their concert Thursday was part of the "First on First: Dickinson Summer Nights" festival, a recurring event scheduled to continue through the summer.
    "They definitely were crowding the stage up there," attendee Steven Peterson told CNN. "I think up front, you know how it is, a couple of beers and they're ready to rock."
    He added that farther away from the stage people were more mindful of social distancing, and he credited the strong turnout to the fact that one of the band members, Mitch Malloy, is a native of Dickinson.
    "I would say the percentage of people wearing masks, I would say maybe 5%. There were some people wearing masks, but not many," he said.
    Peterson wasn't wearing a mask, but he said that if the festival's organizers required it going forward, he would adhere to the rule.
    "Around here you can get it," Peterson said about the coronavirus, "but we just aren't like the big ... you know, New York, Minneapolis, or Los Angeles -- we're just in a different spirit than they are."
    Leaders of the event declined CNN's request for comment.
    The city of Dickinson's website says residents should adhere to social distancing and wear a face mask "if available."
    According to its Facebook page, Great White is scheduled to play shows in Iowa, South Dakota, Florida, Nevada and Michigan throughout the summer, with additional dates in 2020 and 2021. The band didn't return CNN's request for comment on any safety precautions it may require the audience to observe going forward.
    A performance by the band in 2003 was cut short by tragedy when a fire broke out at the venue, the Station nightclub in Rhode Island. Pyrotechnics ignited soundproofing at the club, killing some 100 people and injuring more than 200.

    Risks at large gatherings

    According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there are currently more than 4,400 confirmed coronavirus cases in North Dakota, with 87 deaths.
    Cases have been going up steadily since the start of July. On July 1 the state was averaging 36 cases a day, according to a CNN analysis of JHU data. Now, the state is seeing roughly 74 cases a day, double what it was just two weeks ago.
    While the CDC says outdoor spaces are less risky than indoor spaces because of increased opportunities to social distance and better ventilation, CNN medical analyst and infectious disease expert Dr. Céline Gounder warned of a higher risk of transmission for gatherings such as music festivals or sporting events, especially if people don't wear masks.
    "Certainly in any place people are singing, yelling, shouting, cheering, there's going to be increased risk, because people are going to create more droplets and aerosols that may travel farther than if they are just speaking in a normal tone," Gounder told CNN.
    "This is certainly a situation where I think they should have been wearing masks," Gounder said of the event in Dickinson.
    Gounder said that because North Dakota is seeing an increase in transmission, she is concerned about the area where the concert took place, as well as nearby locations.
    "Big events do attract people from all over, so it's not just what's happening in one county but also what's happening in the region," Gounder added.
    The coronavirus typically has an incubation period of up to 14 days, so it's still too early to tell whether the concert would have impacted those numbers.

    Advice on how to stay safe

    It's important for people to remain vigilant as the pandemic continues to grip the United States, but as venues and activities reopen, more people are likely to participate in gatherings and events.
    CNN asked Gounder for her advice to people who might decide to attend events safely.
    "Number one, number two and number three is to wear a mask," Gounder said. "That's by far the most important thing I can say if somebody is insistent on attending crowded venues, whether they are inside or outside."
    Social distancing, using hand sanitizer, and avoiding people who are not from the same household are also key recommendations, according to Gounder.
    "How much of a burden is it really to wear a cloth mask? It's a pretty small sacrifice to get back to any kind of semblance of normalcy," Gounder added.

    The importance of masks

    While the conversation on the use of masks has become increasingly politicized, public health authorities have long emphasized the importance of wearing them.
    "These face coverings, simple face coverings, really do work in interrupting this transmission," said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "And I think the American public is getting closer to accepting face coverings."
    Redfield said that "we're not defenseless" when it comes to Covid-19, at a webinar with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, on Tuesday.
    Wearing masks, social distancing and washing your hands are all things that can help when it comes to transmission. When social distancing, Redfield noted that masks are the most important thing.
      He described masks as a powerful tool.
      "If we all wore face coverings for the next four, six, eight, 12 weeks, across the nation, this virus transmission would stop," he said.