It’s Showtime! But Is It Safe?

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Art/Photo by Lauryn Shin

Since the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions in California, businesses such as movie theaters are slowly beginning to reopen. But after Governor Gavin Newsom announced the elimination of capacity limits in these theaters, some movie-goers wonder if it will remain safe.

Alexssa Takeda, Staff Writer

     On April 6th, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California could lift most state-wide COVID-19 restrictions by June 15th. Along with scrapping the color-coded tier system, capacity limitations in businesses including movie theaters will be removed, allowing them to return to full operation. But this news has left many movie-goers wondering whether or not it is safe to go. 

   Currently, most theaters such as AMC have been limited to 25-50% capacity and have established new safety policies. As always, masks are required by guests and crew throughout the theater unless they are eating or drinking. Alessio Carabelli, a former West student, recently visited the AMC theater in Del Amo Mall. While he can’t guarantee the mask policy was strictly enforced since he was focused on the movie, he reported, “The distanced seats were definitely enforced.” Carabelli noticed that every reservation was at least two seats away from other reservations, giving them at least a six-foot distance. AMC also has routine cleaning, cashless transactions, and upgraded air-conditioning systems with filters that can increase air exchanges and capture more particles in the auditorium. 

   Although there are many measures put in place to reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus, you should be cautious when deciding whether or not to go out and see that movie you’ve been looking forward to. COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets that can be released when someone coughs, talks, or sneezes. An action as simple as laughing at a funny scene or pulling down your mask to munch on some popcorn can increase risk of transmission.

   How effective is the improved ventilation system? In a German study of an indoor concert conducted in August 2020, researchers suggested that these events had “low to very low” chances of spreading COVID-19 if there was adequate ventilation, strict hygiene protocols, and limited capacity. But some experts say that this experiment should be replicated and reviewed. Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci urged more research to be conducted on ventilation quality to explore how improving airflow could affect transmission. At the moment, there isn’t enough information to safely conclude whether these events, even when ventilated correctly, are low-risk enough to be considered safe.

   While lifting restrictions in less than two months is a step towards normality, it doesn’t mean that we should be disregarding safety protocols such as mask-wearing. Theaters can still pose a threat, especially if they are planning to open to 100% capacity. The safest course of action is to stay home if you haven’t received your vaccine to ensure that no one at risk is entering these establishments. 

   According to the CDC, “visits with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing” is safe since early studies suggest that these individuals are less likely to transmit the virus. As of now, over half of West’s student body can reach immunity. But as time goes on, other variants of the virus are causing concern because the vaccine may not be as effective. Assuming our community continues to “correctly” and “diligently” vaccinate residents the next few months, Fauci expects theaters to reopen to get back to “some strong semblance of normality.” Until then, we will have to wait.