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Theaters Could Be Safe to Open in Fall 2021, According to Dr. Fauci

Stage Directions • Industry NewsTheatre Buzz • January 10, 2021

Top infectious disease expert says timeline depends on U.S. reaching herd immunity, adds mask-wearing may still be necessary

Infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has predicted that live performances could resume this autumn, depending on how widely the COVID-19 vaccine can be distributed by then. Speaking at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals’ APAP NYC conference on Saturday, January 9, Fauci told delegates he believes theaters and other live entertainment venues may reopen “some time in the fall of 2021”, dependent on the U.S. achieving a form of herd immunity by that time.

According to the New York Times, Fauci said for shows to return, between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population would need to vaccinated against COVID-19. “If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall of 2021,” he explained, “so that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing on stage, as well as people in the audience.”

Fauci suggested that, should that vaccination goal be met, venues with good ventilation and proper air filters could open without social distancing—though some theaters may ask audience members to continue to wear masks. “I think you can then start getting back to almost full capacity of seating,” he said, also suggesting that some venues could follow airlines and require negative COVID-19 tests before entry.

During the conversation, Fauci also referred to Restart-19—the German study that demonstrated that, with proper ventilation and hygiene measures, live events have a low impact on the spread of coronavirus—suggesting there should be similar studies carried out in the United States. “What the performing arts needs to do is to do a little bit more of what the Germans are doing,” he commented.

In his concluding remarks, Fauci urged Americans to stay vigilant about public health measures so that the live industry could restart. “We’ll be back in the theaters—performers will be performing, audiences will be enjoying it,” he said. “It will happen.”


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