Public Health Expert Compares Going to Movies Maskless to ‘Russian Roulette’
Although confirmed cases of coronavirus are rising swiftly in areas of the United States — the number of new cases is back up over 35,000 today, according to the New York Times — major movie theaters are still proceeding with their reopening plans. All of the big multiplex chains currently expect to be open by the middle of July, with new safety regulations in place to try to protect guests. The plans include limiting the number of tickets sold to any one movie, increased cleanings, and, in a some cases, requiring guests to wear masks.
Movie lovers like myself desperately want to go back to theaters. But they all want to know the answer to one question that is very difficult to answer: Is it safe? Vulture put that question to Dr. Robert Lahita, chairman of medicine at St. Joseph’s Health in New Jersey and professor of medicine at New York Medical College. By and large, Lahita was encouraged by the steps theaters are taken to protect guests, saying he was “actually surprised at how thorough some of the planning is.”
If it sounds like a “But!” is coming, that’s because there is — and that is the reluctance on the part of some of these theater chains to mandate masks, or for those that are “requiring” masks to allow exceptions for those eating concession snacks. Dr. Lahita says you’d “have to be nuts” to go to a theater without a mask, and compares that decision to “Russian roulette.”
Overall, Lahita believes you’re “95 percent safe if you go to the movies [with all of the stated measures in place],” and certainly safer than you would be attending live theater. Still, that sounds like a pretty big if — since we don’t know how carefully the “stated measures” will be enforced, how many guests will refuse to follow the rules, or how much snack sales will cancel out the benefits of regulations about masks.
So, is it safe? That’s not for me to say. Personally, I tend to prefer leisure activities that do not draw comparisons to infamous scenes from The Deer Hunter. You can read Lahita’s full assessment of movie theater safety at Vulture.
Gallery — Why We Miss Movie Theaters During the Pandemic: