Here's What 64 Percent of Epidemiologists Say They Won't Do for a Year
Why these disease experts plan to avoid large-scale public events until coronavirus is contained.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to make decisions on a regular basis that we never expected to have to make. And as states start reopening cross the country, everyone is weighing the risks versus rewards of certain activities. So how are we to know when doing these things is actually safe? The New York Times recently surveyed over 500 epidemiologists to see when they expected to go back to doing things that the pandemic has put a stop to. Of the activities that most respondents said they would probably not partake in for at least another year due to coronavirus, going to sporting events, concerts, or plays drew the largest majority.
According to The Times, 64 percent of epidemiologists said that they did not expect that they would feel comfortable going to large-scale public events like these for at least another year. (Going to religious services is also a year out for 43 percent of respondents, and 42 percent won't attend a wedding or funeral for a minimum of 12 months either.) While The Times adds the caveat that the responses are personal decisions and not public guidelines, they do reveal how one of the most cautious groups—experts in disease—is proceeding amid the pandemic.
This is not great news for the event economy, which has been struck an unprecedented blow as venues have closed up, seasons have been cut short, and tours have been canceled or indefinitely postponed. The NCAA's March Madness was canceled and Major League Baseball considered playing games without fans in the seats. Meanwhile, arts organizations across the country are struggling to survive without their main source of revenue, and emergency funds have been set up to support performers and crew who are out of work. Variety predicted in early April that the live music industry could lose $9 billion in tickets due to the pandemic. (Some states are planning to reopen venues, but the question remains whether performers or fans will show up.) And these responses from epidemiologists suggest that these issues may stretch into 2021 and perhaps beyond.
Researchers have determined that preventing "super-spreader events"—when one person with the virus infects many others at the same time—is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. This is why large gatherings were among the first things to go when states began to go into lockdown. Concerts, plays, sporting events, festivals, and so on all have the potential to be super-spreader events if attended by someone who is infected, who will then come into contact with many other people.
So what makes a concert different than a church service or a wedding? The crowds at the latter could be significantly smaller, but the difference in the percentages here may also reflect that the former is an optional, leisure activity. Religious worship is an essential part of life to some, and milestone events like weddings and funerals are rare and personal. The survey results show that epidemiologists are more likely to accept the risk of one over the other. And for more information on protecting yourself, This Is the One Thing the CDC Says You Shouldn't Do This Summer.