Janet Jackson performs at the 2018 Essence Festival.
Janet Jackson performs at the 2018 Essence Festival.
Photo: Bennett Raglin (Getty Images)

While we’ve been loving these Verzuz Instagram Live battles and social media concert sets from our favorite artists amidst all of the bullshit going on in the world, nothing is quite like watching your favorite team win a game or singing along to your favorite musicians with friends and family live and in-person.

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While we’re longing to get that old thing back, according to an expert roundtable regarding the coronavirus pandemic and its longterm effects, live events and large gatherings such as concerts, sporting events and conferences probably shouldn’t occur until at least Fall 2021.

Did you hear a faint yet high-pitched scream just now? That was me.

Zeke Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives and director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, was asked by The New York Times Magazine about social distancing precautions being partially lifted in June. He said that he’s “not wildly optimistic,” especially since a full-fledged shutdown in the United States has not been implemented. He also said postponing live events for later in 2020 seems incredibly unrealistic.

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“Certain kinds of construction, or manufacturing or offices, in which you can maintain six-foot distances are more reasonable to start sooner,” he explains. “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.”

That’s at least 17 more months of waiting. Did you hear that? I screamed again.

Events that have been postponed or canceled this year include Essence Fest, SXSW, Coachella, The 2020 Olympics, and the duration of the 2019-2020 NBA season, to name a few.

However, Peter Singer—a bioethics professor at Princeton—says there may be more consequences in the long run if the world doesn’t open up sooner rather than later, explaining that poorer, younger people are particularly dealt a bad hand if we wait.

“Yes, people will die if we open up, but the consequences of not opening up are so severe that maybe we’ve got to do it anyway,” he explained to the Times. “If we keep it locked down, then more younger people are going to die because they’re basically not going to get enough to eat or other basics. So, those trade-offs will come out differently in different countries.”

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On April 3, the World Health Organization warned countries about easing up on social distancing and quarantine restrictions too early, which could potentially cause a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, placing us right back where we started.

“If people delay care or avoid it because they can’t afford it, they not only harm themselves, they make the pandemic harder to control and put society at risk,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in an agency briefing in Geneva. “This is an unprecedented crisis which demands an unprecedented response.”

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While we’re not digging these projections, it’s much better to be safe than sorry in this situation.

Music and culture journalist. Pronounced "Jay-nuh."

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