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Dr. Fauci Says Live Concerts Will Return by Fall 2021

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Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, said on Saturday that he believes theaters and performance venues will open “some time in the fall of 2021.”

The statement came during an address at a virtual event held by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals. Dr. Fauci added that a return to live events hinges on effective rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine — which is off to a sluggish start — which he defined as vaccinating between 70% and 85% of the population, resulting in an adequate level of herd immunity.

“If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall of 2021,” The New York Times reports 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.”

Fauci added that audience members would likely still be required to wear masks for the forseeable future, even once effective herd immunity is reached and events return in full force.

Fauci referenced a German study released this past fall which concluded that the risk of getting infected at live concerts “is very low” as long as certain precautions are taken, among them major improvements to venue air ventilation systems. The study was conducted at a staged concert inside a 2,400-person venue filled to half capacity. All attendees were given respiratory face masks, fluorescent hand gel to trace how they interacted with the environment, and transmitters to trace their movements for evaluation later. Scheduled bathroom breaks and simulated food and drink transactions were built into the study.

“We’ll be back in the theaters — performers will be performing, audiences will be enjoying it,” Fauci said during his address on Saturday. “It will happen.”

The new $900 stimulus bill that passed in December includes $15 billion earmarked for the performing arts industry. The relief comes following months of lobbying by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), an organization which now represents more than 3,000 independent venues and promoters in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. While music venues and promoters were eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that was a part of the original stimulus bill passed in March, those payments were only designed to make up for an 8-week budget shortfall, a pittance to an industry that’s been completely shuttered for over nine months now and will be among the last to return once the pandemic subsides.

A group of U.S. Senators led by John Cornyn of Texas and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced the Save Our Stages act in July, and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Minority Leader, endorsed it in August. The guts of that act will now be incorporated into the new stimulus bill.

How and when the $15 billion will be distributed — and whether it will be enough to keep venues afloat for the next several months — is not clear at this time.

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