Dr. Fauci Says You Shouldn't Go Here Until a Year After a Vaccine

We won't be able to do this again until an effective vaccine has been widely distributed.

With COVID case numbers moving in the right direction across the country, it might feel to many people as though the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. Unfortunately, that's not the case: Cases continue to rise in certain states, and there are still specific activities that won't really be safe until the development of an effective coronavirus vaccine. In fact, the nation's leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, MD, recently said that it likely won't be safe to go to the theater until at least a year after the creation of a vaccine.

In a Sept. 9 Facebook Live interview with actor Jennifer Garner, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said that to return to the theater—whether to see films or for live performances—it will take "a combination of a vaccine that has been around for almost a year and good public health measures."

Given the potential timeline for the rollout and distribution of a COVID vaccine, even if one were developed by the end of the year, it would be unlikely that the majority of the population could be vaccinated before fall 2021, Fauci noted. That means it would be at least a year from now before we might be able to, as Garner said, "sit in a theater and watch our favorite performers up on stage again."

empty theater

A Sept. 8 article for the Washington Post documented the unique and, in some cases, seemingly insurmountable challenges of bringing live theater back amid a pandemic, with a specific focus on Broadway. While there are shows planned for spring 2021, many people behind the scenes are aware that another postponement is likely, with fall 2021 seeming like a more realistic estimate.

As the Washington Post notes, there are several problems to overcome before theater can safely return: "ventilation systems in need of updating, cramped quarters for artists and other workers in backstage areas, a lack of specific federal guidance about what safety measures are required, and a host of other issues."

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Given that social distancing will be nearly impossible for theater audiences—and that enclosed spaces are perhaps the most dangerous risk factor in coronavirus transmission—many people working in theater know that it will take a vaccine before venues can reopen. Movie theaters are in a slightly better position, given the lack of live performers and the ability to space out audience members, but patrons are still breathing in the same recycled air for an extended period of time.

And, of course, it all depends on the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccine, as Fauci has repeatedly cautioned. "If we get a really good vaccine and just about everybody gets vaccinated, you'll have a degree of immunity in the general community that I think you can walk into a theatre without a mask and feel like it's comfortable that you aren't going to be at risk," he told Garner. Unfortunately, it may be quite a while before we reach that point. And if you want to stay healthy, check out Dr. Fauci's Top 10 Tips to Keep You Safe From COVID-19.

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