Dr. Ezekiel "Zeke" Emanuel, one of the key architects of the Affordable Care Act and a special adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization, told The New York Times that he doesn't anticipate it to be safe to return to concerts, sporting events and other mass public gatherings for another 18 months.
"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," he said. "Certain kinds of construction, or manufacturing or offices, in which you can maintain six-foot distances are more reasonable to start sooner. 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. I think those things will be the last to return. Realistically we're talking fall 2021 at the earliest. Restaurants where you can space tables out, maybe sooner."
He continued: "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?"
Public health experts have repeatedly expressed their concern that Americans are underestimating how long the coronavirus pandemic will disrupt everyday life in the country.
As the coronavirus disease continues to spread, live event organizers have been canceling or postponing large gatherings, including concerts and festivals.
Entertainers, crew and other workers in the industry have already lost billions of dollars as a result of COVID-19-related cancelations, representing only a small fraction of the financial devastation that will be experienced by workers in the sector as cancelations continue to roll in.
On March 11, the World Health Organization labeled COVID-19 a "pandemic." "Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly," WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news conference. "We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough. All countries can still change the course of this pandemic."
In recent weeks, a number of artists have held virtual concerts from their homes as the world continues to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Diseases, has predicted that American students would be able to return to school this fall even if the virus is still lingering. But Fauci has also said there could be further waves of the coronavirus, particularly this fall.
Emanuel recently criticized the Trump administration's response to the virus outbreak, saying that the government's focus has been flawed because it is only considering the course of the virus over the next eight weeks.