A potential return to concerts and large-scale social gatherings is finally on the horizon. The New York Times reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States' top infectious disease expert, estimates that concerts and other live venues may be able to safely reopen some time during the fall of 2021.

The news came during a virtual conference held by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, with Fauci speaking to the enormous economic difficulty those in the entertainment and performance industries have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus' spread first began to impact U.S. concerts in early 2020, with a large wave of country tours and events being canceled in March of that year.

Fauci emphasized that a safe reopening will depend on a swift and effective rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in order for the U.S. to achieve herd immunity, with 70 percent to 85 percent of the population receiving the vaccine.

"If everything goes right, this will occur sometime in the fall of 2021," Fauci explained. "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."

However, that might be a big "if." Vaccine distribution is already behind schedule in the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that by the end of 2020, 2.8 million people had received their first dose of the vaccine — a fraction of the goal of 20 million people. However, that data may also be subject to a reporting lag.

During his appearance at the conference, Fauci also cited a German study of an indoor concert staged by scientists in August, which had 1,200 attendees. The study's results suggested that such concerts carried a "low to very low" impact on the spread of the virus provided event organizers ensured "adequate ventilation, strict hygiene protocols and limited capacity," according to the Times.

That's a heartening light at the end of the tunnel for an industry that has faced massive setbacks since the start of the pandemic. Still, the logistics of reopening concert venues remain a little murky. In November 2020, Billboard revealed that Ticketmaster was already considering different ways of ensuring fan safety at its concert events, even floating the possibility of requiring all event attendees to prove their vaccination status.

Ever since the pandemic's early days, many have been speculating about what a post-COVID-19 live music landscape could look like, but some aren't all that eager for its return. In the spring of 2020, a survey asked 1,000 United States consumers what they expected their concert-going plans would be after the pandemic, and 56 percent of participants said it would take them between "a few months" to "possibly never" to go to a major indoor concert venue again after they're declared safe.

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