As we continue to self-isolate to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, concerts and virtually all large events have been put on lockdown for the foreseeable future along with much of the nation’s economy. In a new, round-table discussion piece published in The New York Times Magazine this week, five scholars from a variety of fields discuss the eventual “restarting” to the American economy, when and how it will happen, and the moral repercussions of the moves we may make as a country to get things going again. Along with various other parts of the American economy, the discussion touches on the concert and event industry, and the experts’ outlook on this front is not exactly comforting for music fans.
One of the discussion’s participants was Zeke Emanuel, the bioethicist and leader of the Center for American Progress who earlier this month presented an exhaustive National and State Plan To End the Coronavirus Crisis. That plan recommends, among other measures, a national stay-at-home mandate through mid-May, a subsequent ramp-up in testing for anyone with potential COVID-19 symptoms, “contact-tracing” (identification and notification of anyone who has come in contact with a confirmed carrier of the virus), mandatory isolation for those who have been infected and the people with whom they’ve come in contact, and representative sample testing in every country to map the virus’ spread and location.
If we follow these directives, Emanuel argues, the current restrictions could start to ease as early as June. Even after the economy begins to get moving again, the panel asserts that it will need to be done gradually, as risk will need to be managed and economic/health trade-offs will need to be made every step of the way.
When asked if the Center for American Progress’ forecast for a partial restart in June still holds true, Emanuel is quick to offer skepticism. “I’m not wildly optimistic, would be my answer” he explains. “Restarting the economy has to be done in stages, and it does have to start with more physical distancing at a work site that allows people who are at lower risk to come back. Certain kinds of construction, or manufacturing or offices, in which you can maintain six-foot distances are more reasonable to start sooner.”
Emanuel continues to explain that the coronavirus will likely have a longer effect on concerts than many had initially expected. “Larger gatherings — conferences, concerts, sporting events — when people say they’re going to reschedule this conference or graduation event for October 2020, I have no idea how they think that’s a plausible possibility,” he notes. “I think those things will be the last to return. Realistically we’re talking fall 2021 at the earliest.”
Emanuel also expands upon this unsettling hypothesis, explaining that we’ll still likely see additional spikes in the virus once the economy begins to switch back on. “Restaurants where you can space tables out, maybe sooner. In Hong Kong, Singapore and other places, we’re seeing resurgences when they open up and allow more activity. It’s going to be this roller coaster, up and down. The question is: When it goes up, can we do better testing and contact tracing so that we can focus on particular people and isolate them and not have to reimpose shelter-in-place for everyone as we did before?”
The rest of the discussion is truly interesting and informative, touching on the repercussions of the virus and our preventative actions on the eventual restarting of the economy. You can read the whole discussion here.
You can also keep tabs on how the coronavirus is affecting concerts and festivals in 2020 here.