Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, said he believes concert venues and theaters could reopen “some time in the fall of 2021,” depending on the effectiveness of the vaccination rollout, and with the caveat that audiences may be wearing masks and practicing social-distancing for suggested that audiences may still be required to wear masks for some time.
“If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall of 2021, so that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience,” Fauci said, noting that the return depends upon getting between 70% to 85% of the population vaccinated, according to the New York Times. Along with the vaccination, Fauci said venues and theaters may need to take further safety precautions, particularly if they do not have effective ventilation. His comments took place on Saturday at a conference held by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals.
Everything going right is, of course, a big “if.” While vaccines are beginning to roll out in earnest, the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic has been nothing short of disastrous and the entire population, not to mention the economy, has been grievously impacted.
The live-entertainment industry has been devastated by the pandemic, with most venues being nearly if not entirely closed since March. While the Save Our Stages Act, which was passed into law late last month as part of the government’s larger COVID-19 Relief Bill, will bring approximately $10 billion in relief to America’s independent concert venues, their situation remains dire.
Fauci said that if vaccine distribution succeeded, theaters with good ventilation and proper air filters “can then start getting back to almost full capacity of seating,” he said. He encouraged venue operators to research their ventilation systems and protocols, referencing a German study of an indoor concert, staged by scientists in August, that suggested that such events had “low to very low” impact on the spread of the virus as long as organizers ensured adequate ventilation, strict hygiene protocols and limited capacity, according to the report. He also said that venues could adopt airline industry rules and require audience members to provide negative test results in order to gain admittance.
Despite the crushing blow the pandemic has delivered to the live-entertainment industry, Fauci’s comments were upbeat in nature. “We’ll be back in the theaters — performers will be performing, audiences will be enjoying it,” he said. “It will happen.”