In another world, I would have spent this past weekend fighting off sunburn in Indio, California as I hopped from stage to stage to see some of my favorite artists (like Frank Ocean, Megan Thee Stallion, and 100 gecs) perform at Coachella. Instead, I spent it at home, trying to fashion my own makeshift concert while starting the six-month countdown to October 9th, when the influencer-bait music festival was rescheduled to take place. However, after discovering some new information, it seems like I, along with Paul Tollett and the entire Goldenvoice team, may need to start reconsidering our options. In a new report by the New York Times, a panel of experts discussed what "real life" could possibly look like after our current pandemic dies down, leading Zeke Emmanuel, a bioethicist and director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, to posit that "larger gatherings" like conferences, concerts, and sporting events wouldn't be feasible to return until Fall 2021, at the earliest.
To be clear, Emmanuel is not implying that quarantine, in its current state, would persist until then. In fact, Emmanuel suggested that if everything was done correctly (including a national shelter-in-place policy, a normalization of wearing masks outside, and comprehensive testing with real-time results), some of the more stringent restrictions could ease up by this June. But he's also clear to note that "restarting the economy has to be done in stages" in order to prevent infection rates from flaring up again. Unsurprisingly, the aforementioned larger gatherings will be at the bottom of the list — both for reasons of perceived importance (we need to restart essential parts of the economy, above all) and logistics (there is no way to enforce social distancing in these particular settings). As Emmanuel says, "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."
While there will certainly be an effort by people in the event business to get back on track as soon as possible, Emmanuel and the other experts included in the Times panel believe they'll need to wait. With all agreeing that it will take somewhere between 12 and 18 months for researchers to find an adequate vaccine, there is a consensus that the only way to open the economy up before that would be incrementally, lest we risk another spike in infections. The idea that gatherings like concerts and sporting events would be deemed essential enough to risk regressing into our current pandemic state seems ludicrous in turn. Though Emmanuel didn't call out Coachella by name, it was clear that he was pointing to them when he said, "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."
So if you, like me, have been using this time in isolation to accordingly plan your Coachella looks for October weather (which, in reality, isn't too different from April weather in southern California), you might want to think again. Or maybe you don't have to. Just be aware that you might be planning for October 2021 instead.