Dr. Fauci Predicts Theatergoers Will Need to Wear Masks Until Mid- to Late 2021

Theaters across America have started to reopen as local regulations allow, a move letting features like Tenet and The New Mutants to be released to the masses — or, at the very least, the chunk of cinephiles feeling safe enough to go back to theaters. Now, the country's leading infectious disease experts says movie-goers should plan on wearing masks to the cinema for the better part of the next year.

Speaking with Elektra alum Jennifer Garner in a recent Instagram Live video, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said masks should be commonplace until a "knockout vaccine" is introduced with a substantial effective rate.

"I think it's going to be a combination of a vaccine that has been around for almost a year and good public-health measures," Fauci told the actor when asked when he thought theaters would be "normal" again.

The COVID expert added, “If we have a vaccine that’s a knockout vaccine that’s 85% to 90% effective — I don’t think we’ll get that, I’ll settle for 70% effective – [but] if we get a really good vaccine and just about everybody gets vaccinated, you’ll have a degree of immunity in the general community that I think you can walk into a theater without a mask and feel like it’s comfortable that you aren’t going to be at risk.”

That's when Fauci said — as he has many times before — he doesn't expect a vaccine of that nature to be ready until deep into 2021.

Late last month, Warner Brothers officially released Tenet, despite theaters in America's largest markets — both New York and Los Angeles — remained closed. Through Thursday, the movie has grossed $152 million globally, a sum that includes just $20.2M in domestic box office receipts.

At the time, AMC Theatres estimated around 70-percent of its locations had been reopened in time for the release. After massive backlash earlier this summer, AMC reversed course and implemented policies that required movie-goers to wear masks whenever they're not consuming snacks.

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“The first two weekends of operations have exceeded our expectations in terms of guests returning to the movies and in terms of their feedback about our extensive AMC Safe & Clean policies and procedures," AMC boss Adam Aron announced in a statement at the time of Tenet's release. "Our comprehensive commitment to operating our theatres safely now includes social distancing through limiting ticket sales and automatic seat blocking, seamless contactless ticketing, greatly enhanced cleaning procedures, the availability of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes throughout our theatres, as well as a mandatory mask policy for all guests and crew members."

Cover photo by Kirill KukhmarTASS via Getty Images