Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

The show must go on.

Jonathan Wolfe


New reported cases in the United States.
Credit…The New York Times

The pandemic hit the arts and culture industry harder than almost any other. During the past year, the unemployment rate for actors, singers and dancers has been higher than it has been even for restaurant employees or workers in other devastated industries. Theaters were quickly shuttered and widely expected to be the last places to reopen.

But now, as the U.S. opens up, arts and culture spaces are reopening earlier than even people in the industry had anticipated. For a look at what to expect in the coming months, I spoke to my colleague Michael Cooper, a culture editor.

What does the arts and culture industry’s reopening look like?

For a long time, the assumption was that we would have a summer of lots of outdoor performances, and that by September people would begin to go back inside theaters and concert halls. But that’s really changed just in the past month or so. Suddenly, the time frame is much quicker.

Broadway, for instance, initially decided that it would come back on September 14. The idea was that some of the biggest hits — “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “Hamilton” — would all open that night. But now there is a sort of arms race to see who can open first. The musical “Hadestown” sort of jumped the line and said that it would resume on Sept. 2. Then the producers of the play “Pass Over” said they would start preview performances on Aug. 4. Then just this week, Bruce Springsteen announced that he was going to bring back “Springsteen on Broadway” starting on June 26. Similar things are happening in other spaces. Madison Square Garden just announced its first full capacity, unmasked but vaccinated indoor concert with Foo Fighters at the end of June. That would have been unthinkable just weeks ago.

Why has the timeline moved up so quickly?

A lot of what changed were the shifting guidelines from the C.D.C. The government made a decision to relax the mask mandates and to encourage vaccinated people to take advantage of their vaccination status. Once the signal changed from Washington, that really paved the way for a lot of states to ease their remaining restrictions.

But there’s still a ton of confusion about how certain things are going to work. There hasn’t been as much guidance or advance warning from the states as there had been earlier. For places that will require vaccination, it’s still unclear exactly how that’s going to be enforced.

How are venues responding?

I think the venues are excited. This has really been an unutterably terrible year. But I think venues are nervous because there are still all kinds of questions. Will audiences come back? Broadway relies heavily on tourists, and tourism in New York City has not yet bounced back. Will they be able to sell out eight shows a week? And a lot of institutions are still grappling with serious fiscal problems from the pandemic.

What has been the public’s reaction?

Just this week Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would mount a huge New York-is-back concert in Central Park in late August, with about 60,000 people on the Great Lawn, and that they would show it on television. And it was very interesting to watch the reaction on social media. Tons of people were overjoyed by the idea, and this symbol that New York was coming back. But quite a lot of people were also understandably concerned, even though it is outdoors, given how many people remain unvaccinated and the new variants spreading in parts of the world. So we’ll have to wait and see.

For many people, the stress, anxiety and disruptions from the pandemic made their sleep worse, giving rise to terms like “coronasomnia.” Over a year, it continued to deteriorate.

A survey conducted last summer by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 20 percent of Americans said they had trouble sleeping because of the pandemic. When the academy repeated its survey in March, roughly 60 percent of people said they struggled with pandemic-related insomnia — even though infection rates had fallen and the country was beginning to reopen.

“Over the past year, we’ve had the perfect storm of every possible bad thing that you can do for your sleep,” said Dr. Sabra Abbott, an assistant professor of neurology in sleep medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

But The Times’s Well desk is here to help. They collected advice from experts on how to fall asleep, feel rested and create better sleep habits. They also asked readers for their trickiest sleep questions, and had experts answer them.

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.

I’m in Argentina where vaccines are few and the virus is raging. We have an 8 p.m. mandatory curfew enforced by fines. Gyms, indoor dining and family gatherings are not permitted. Those who can fly to Miami to get vaccinated, while the majority of the population wait for the AstraZeneca or Sputnik vaccine. Talk about FOMO for summer in the United States!

— Wendy Walker, Córdoba, Argentina

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Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a Broadway musical, it’s Hadestown, not Hades Town.

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Jonathan Wolfe