It’s been over a year now since the Covid shutdown began. Unfortunately, that also means that we are entering the summer season, which is also the concert/convention/live event season. We had no comic conventions in 2020, are we going to have any in 2021, or do we have another year to wait before we can gather in groups of thousands to celebrate our favorite fandoms?
There’s several things to consider, where it’s not just the actual health and safety involved, but also the price and planning.
So obviously, the first thing to talk about, is how many people have the vaccine. (Most) people want to wait until they have a vaccine before they go out, so it won’t make sense to have conventions until enough people have it in the first place. As far as the US goes, President Biden says “We are now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May”. However, having the supply, and administering them are two different things.
Fauci says we need 70%-85% of the population to have a vaccine to reach herd immunity, and be completely safe to open back up. “If everything goes right, this will occur sometime in the fall of 2021, 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,” was his comment about music concerts specifically. However, when will the majority of the population have a vaccine? When the vaccine first was released, there was a huge push of Anti-Vaxxers that were trying to slow things down, however, as more and more people have gotten the vaccine (myself included) and not fallen deathly ill, their fearmongering has quelled, and people are comfortable getting their vaccines.
Interestingly, everyone with the vaccine received official CDC cards, and requiring proof of vaccine could be a way to open up earlier, to a smaller attendance.
This might be crucial, because if one event opens, and it’s a “Super-Spreader Event,” people will get too scared to go to the next one, which will slow down everything even more, than if we just wait. So you really need to limit the conventions to only people that are vaccinated, regardless of whether that’s sooner or later. Unfortunately, you can’t have half of a convention, because it’s too costly to not get every dollar out of it. Maybe we could do small regional shows, only a day or two, for a few thousand people will be more manageable, and easier to keep people safe.
I will mention, that at the theme parks in Orlando, mask requirements are very strong, with designated eating areas or mask-off areas, and they don’t really require vaccines. Of course, outdoor conventions aren’t really a thing. However, Renaissance Faires could be popular this year, as they are entirely outdoors. Is that going to be the acceptable nerd gathering this summer, as if people are a bit more relaxed while they are eating, they are safer still? That does shorten the convention season to only the warmer months. Of course, that’s kind of the thing anyway.
So we can probably get things outdoors this summer, but the indoor events won’t have much more time after that. Generally speaking, convention season ends in October, and begins in April. So the focus really becomes whether or not we will have things open by the end of summer? If we look at other major events for this summer, all Broadway shows are still cancelled until May 30, and they’re open to pushing it back more, Coachella has already been cancelled, and SXSW has already been announced to be online. The only notable thing is that the UK has announced that they will be allowing live shows (concerts) in June.
At the current rate, concerts aren’t really planning on opening until August at the earliest, but by then the convention season will be winding down. Not only that, but conventions take a long time to plan, and you want to know it’s going to happen before you begin planning. This is why so many events have already cancelled, because even if things fully open before them, it takes too long to actually plan, organize, and put on an event than the short notice will allow. Delaying movies is one thing, but delaying an entire live event is a much bigger deal.
Time is not the only issue here, but also money. Businesses have lost money, and conventions cost a lot. How will they get revenue back up? Online events over the past year made a fraction of a fraction of their standard revenue. It still cost money to put on those online events however, and so in their attempt to make money, they lost even more. Because of this, taking a gamble on having an event without a 100% guarantee that it’ll be okay, is losing any appeal.
All of this is to say that I don’t think conventions will return this year, and that the best we will have to settle with are maybe some small RenFaires.
However, let’s fast forward to April 2022. At this point, vaccines will have been distributed fully, we will have herd immunity, and we will be able to drop our masks, even in large groups.
I was thinking last night about the phrase “New Normal.” Last year, early into this pandemic, we were already talking about how the world will never return to what it was before. None of us really knew what that meant, we just could see that this was too monumental of an event to ignore. Now, I think we will have a clearer idea of what that New Normal is. As an example, whenever we travel by plane, we are reminded of the events of September 11th, as we take off our shoes and walk through the airport security. We never went back to how plane travel was before that day. This is the New Normal for travel.
Outside of conventions, it’s clear that working from home will be a much more normal status, and that people will wear masks casually when they have a cold or something. Also, maybe when people stand in line, they won’t feel the need to be right behind you, breathing down your neck, which DOESN’T HELP THE LINE GO ANY FASTER BY THE WAY.
What else will change in a post-Covid world, when it comes to live events? Will celebrities want to continue the meet and greet with thousands of people a day? Where people used to have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), will it be replaced FOGO (Fear of Going Out)? I’ll be honest, I’ve had the vaccine for a few months now, and I still haven’t really gone out to restaurants, been to the movies, or seen any friends. I have FOGO with basic things, so will I be too anxious to go back to a multi-thousand person multi-day event? I’m not sure.