Commentary

Social Media Spirals Into Panic as Healthcare Expert Predicts Concerts Won’t Return Until 2021

Remember the days before social distancing? One health expert says you won't see a scene like this for over a year.
Remember the days before social distancing? One health expert says you won't see a scene like this for over a year. Mikel Galicia


If there’s one lesson we should have learned over the last four years, it’s that human behavior is unpredictable, and even our most formidable experts are capable of flawed analysis.

So when The New York Times reports that concerts and other large-scale events are likely to be absent from our lives until fall 2021, the proper response is to take it into consideration along with other possibilities.

But in fairness, the expert who made this prediction is oncologist and Center for American Progress senior fellow Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who is no Cassandra and even less a fool. You may know Emanuel as the older brother of former Chicago mayor and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, but his youngest brother, Ari Emanuel, is the CEO of William Morris-Endeavor, one of the largest talent agencies in the film and music industries.

So, y’know, he knows a lot about the human body and has secondhand perspective on how governments and concerts are run.


“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,” Emanuel said to the Times. “I think those things will be the last to return. Realistically we’re talking fall 2021 at the earliest.”

It wasn’t long after that this prediction made the rounds on social media. “Fall 2021” became a trending Twitter search after MetalSucks ran a story under the headline “Healthcare Expert Says Concerts Won’t Return Until ‘Fall 2021 At the Earliest.’ " Perhaps inadvertently, the story quickly became an indisputable fact:

It’s possible that we will go a year-and-a-half without concerts, as Dr. Emanuel predicts, but it’s also possible that we experience some miraculous breakthrough in the form of a vaccine. There’s a small chance that the coronavirus will wane as temperatures rise over the summer. Conversely, America’s death toll could reach six-digits, and the outbreak could escalate to a point where fall 2021 seems like wishful thinking. Not to bum you out or anything.

The point is, nobody knows for certain what’s going to happen, so perhaps people on social media are being myopic when they settle into one view alone in Emanuel’s prediction.

The big takeaway from the physician's assessment isn’t that we may go a year-and-a-half without concerts (although we shouldn’t rule it out) — it’s that concerts and other mass gatherings will be the last things to come back once things “go back to normal.”
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Garrett Gravley was born and grew up in Dallas. He mostly writes about music, but veers into arts and culture, local news and politics. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas and has written for the Dallas Observer since October 2018.