(Photo: Joan Marcus)

Dr. Anthony Fauci reiterated his prediction Tuesday that Broadway theaters could reopen this fall. 

In opening remarks for a virtual panel with the National Endowment for the Arts, Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, underlined the importance of vaccinations and a gradual reopening of the economy to achieving this timeline. Individual behavior and the pace of vaccinations over the next few months will be particularly critical for combating the rise of new COVID-19 variants and beating the pandemic, he said. 

“If enough people get vaccinated and if we are careful in reopening and resuming activities, based on current projections, I believe we likely could see a return to more fully open movie and Broadway theaters sometime in the fall,” Fauci said. 

Audience members will likely have to wear masks, at least in the early days of reopening, he said. 

Broadway theaters are currently closed through May 30, 2021, but many producers see the fall as a likely reopening date. This projection has been based, in part, on Fauci’s predicted timeline. 

Fauci’s timeline assumes that between 70% to 85% of the population will be vaccinated by late summer. These numbers are attainable, he said, based on the three COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available in the U.S. and the increasing rate of vaccination. President Biden recently directed all states to make vaccines available to all adults beginning May 1. 

However, Fauci cautioned that vaccination alone will not be sufficient to stem the tide of the pandemic. And while he said he welcomes the early reopening efforts of theaters and arts centers in New York — using social distancing and rapid testing — he said it was crucial to “not declare victory prematurely.” 

Rather, Fauci said it will take the continuance of individual behaviors such as social distancing, mask wearing and receiving a COVID-19 vaccine when eligible to return to normalcy.

“Our most important task as a nation right now is to reduce the level of circulating virus to a very low level, much less than the tens of thousands of cases we currently are seeing each day,” he said.