If you’ve been having a hard time without live music, theater, or other events, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, has some optimistic news for you: Concerts could resume in the fall of this year—as long as we do a few very important things right, Dr. Fauci said in a new interview.
Depending partly on how the vaccine rollout continues, theaters and other types of venues could be able to open “some time in the fall of 2021,” Dr. Fauci said at a conference of the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, according to the New York Times.
The vaccine rollout has been slow going so far in the U.S. (government officials were aiming for 20 million vaccinations by the end of last year but only about 2 million actually happened). But Dr. Fauci recently said that he believes the issues that were slowing vaccinations are being resolved and that we could soon be doing 1 million vaccinations per day or more. Recent estimates from the Washington Post show that about 9 million people have now been vaccinated in the country.
“If everything goes right,” meaning that vaccinations pick up and people continue to take other precautions, “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,” Dr. Fauci said in the interview.
Venues with air filters and good ventilation may indeed be able to hold events again later in the year, he said. (Ventilation is especially important as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recognize the coronavirus can spread via airborne transmission under certain circumstances, such as when there is very little airflow.) But audience members would likely be expected to continue to wear masks for a while and may still need to follow social distancing guidelines as well.
The big factor here is getting enough people vaccinated in order to provide herd immunity to the community, Dr. Fauci said, which requires that about 75% to 85% of the population getting a vaccine. Herd immunity describes a situation in which enough people in a particular community are immunized (typically through vaccination) against a pathogen so that even those who aren’t or can’t be vaccinated receive some protection, SELF explained previously. And that hope is that, with enough people vaccinated, the coronavirus won’t be able to spread widely in a community—even if not everyone has received a vaccine.
Clinical trial data shows that the two vaccines that are available for emergency use right now can significantly help prevent symptomatic COVID-19 infections, but we don’t have conclusive data yet about whether or not they can also prevent asymptomatic infections, which may be responsible for much of the spread of the virus. We also don’t have enough data yet to know if the vaccines can prevent the spread of COVID-19 from person to person, which is necessary for herd immunity. But experts say that it is likely the vaccines at least reduce the spread between people, SELF explained previously, even though we don’t have the research to conclusively prove that yet.
But it’s not just about vaccinations: We still need to use the same public health tools that we’ve been relying on this entire time, including social distancing, wearing masks, washing our hands frequently, and avoiding crowds (for now). When used together, those tools will go a long way toward ending the pandemic and eventually allowing us to start doing all the in-person things we miss, including going to concerts.
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