Fauci Suggests Theaters Could Reopen ‘Some Time in the Fall’
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, told performing arts professionals at a virtual conference on Saturday that he believed that theaters and other venues could reopen “some time in the fall of 2021,” depending on the vaccination rollout, and suggested that audiences might still be required to wear masks for some time.
At the conference, held by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, Dr. Fauci sought to assure people in the industry that the end of their acute economic pain was in sight, while emphasizing that the timeline hinged on the country reaching an effective level of herd immunity, which he defined as vaccinating from 70 percent to 85 percent of the population.
“If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall of 2021,” Dr. Fauci said, “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.”
The industry conference, which typically draws thousands of attendees and features hundreds of live performances, was moved entirely online this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, underscoring the seismic impact the outbreak has had on the performing arts. According to the results of a survey released this week by Americans for the Arts, a national advocacy group, financial losses nationally in the field are estimated to be $14.8 billion, more than a third of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations have laid off or furloughed their staff, and a tenth are “not confident” they can survive the pandemic.
Speaking to Maurine Knighton, the program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Dr. Fauci said that if vaccine distribution succeeded, theaters with good ventilation and proper air filters might not need to place many restrictions for performances by the fall — except asking their audience members to wear masks, which he suggested could continue to be a norm for some time.
“I think you can then start getting back to almost full capacity of seating,” he said.
Dr. Fauci was asked about a frustration among some performing arts professionals that restaurants, bars, gyms and places of worship have been allowed to open in some states while theaters and other performance venues have remained shuttered. In response, Dr. Fauci urged them to do more research on the ventilation quality of their theaters and to explore how improving air flow might affect transmission.
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Answers to Your Vaccine Questions
While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.
Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.
Yes, but not forever. The two vaccines that will potentially get authorized this month clearly protect people from getting sick with Covid-19. But the clinical trials that delivered these results were not designed to determine whether vaccinated people could still spread the coronavirus without developing symptoms. That remains a possibility. We know that people who are naturally infected by the coronavirus can spread it while they’re not experiencing any cough or other symptoms. Researchers will be intensely studying this question as the vaccines roll out. In the meantime, even vaccinated people will need to think of themselves as possible spreaders.
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection won’t be any different from ones you’ve gotten before. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. But some of them have felt short-lived discomfort, including aches and flu-like symptoms that typically last a day. It’s possible that people may need to plan to take a day off work or school after the second shot. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign: they are the result of your own immune system encountering the vaccine and mounting a potent response that will provide long-lasting immunity.
No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed.
He referred to 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.
And he suggested that the field needed more such studies. “What the performing arts needs to do is to do a little bit more of what the Germans are doing,” he said.
Dr. Fauci also said that venues could mimic rules at some U.S. airlines and require audience members to provide negative test results in order to gain admittance.
Vaccine distribution in the United States is already behind schedule, with state and local public health officials struggling to administer the vaccine to hospital workers and at-risk older Americans. Most people remain unsure when they might be able to get protected.
Recognizing the pandemic fatigue that is being felt across the country, and the eagerness of artists and arts administrators to get back to work, Dr. Fauci urged people to stay vigilant about public health measures so that the industry could reopen.
“We’ll be back in the theaters — performers will be performing, audiences will be enjoying it,” he said. “It will happen.”