Since mid-March, artists and event planners from all genres have been postponing and cancelling concerts, tours and festivals in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Social distancing and "safer at home" orders, advised and enacted throughout the country to help stop the spread of the virus, have made large gatherings impossible, but have also left music fans when they'll be able to see a live show again.

Unfortunately, at least according to one expert, it may be longer than fans would hope before they're back in a singalong sea. In a new New York Times feature, Zeke Emanuel, vice provost of global initiatives and the director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, predicts that concerts and other large events won't be safe until "Fall 2021 at the earliest."

"You can’t just flip a switch and open the whole of society up. It’s just not going to work. It’s too much. The virus will definitely flare back to the worst levels," Emmanuel explained during a roundtable discussion for the Times piece that also featured four other experts in bioethics, human rights and economics. "So I think you are going to have to do segments. Again, this requires testing and tracking, so you reduce the risk of the infection spreading, even if it doesn’t come down to zero."

Emmanuel recently led a group from the Center for American Progress that offered a plan to end the pandemic: A national stay-at-home policy through mid-May; ramped-up testing; comprehensive tracking of those who have the virus or have been in contact with someone who has it, and isolation of those people; and a system to map cases and alert the general public to cases' locations. With all of those systems in place, current restrictions could begin to be lifted — but not all at once.

“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," Emmanuel cautions. "I think those things will be the last to return. Realistically, we’re talking Fall 2021 at the earliest."

Emmanuel's prediction for the return of large events is based on the timeline for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Experts believe that process will take 12-18 months, the Guardian reports: Not only does a vaccine need to be developed, it also needs to be tested, then produced and distributed.

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