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What Black Widow's Theatrical Release Could Really Mean For The COVID Battle. Doctor Explains

For one calendar year, as of this writing, most parts of the world have been under some degree of quarantine, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And for all the pragmatic reasons why people may question how long a quarantine can last, there is also a somewhat selfish question a lot of us have been asking ourselves all year — namely, when will it be safe to see movies in a theater again?

There have been attempts to reopen theaters in the United States, over this time, but they haven't truly kicked off. Over the summer, there was an ongoing discussion over when Christopher Nolan's next authorial action film, Tenet, would release into theaters, or whether even doing so was a good idea. However, by the late fall of 2020, it was clear that — for the United States of America, at least — the idea of safely going to theaters was probably going to have to wait until the following year. 

Now, three full months into 2021, the COVID-19 situation is beginning to change. And as more people get vaccinated at an increasingly rapid pace, it's becoming a little less selfish, and a little more safe, to ask when theaters will be safe again. With Marvel Studios' Black Widow set to hit theaters in May — a full year after its original intended release date — medical professionals are beginning to weigh in on the safety of social gathering, at this stage of the pandemic, as the 2021 movie rush begins.

Going to theaters to see Black Widow should be safe by May, but...

Dr. Mauricio Heilbron — AKA Dr. Mo — a general, trauma, and vascular surgeon, took a moment to discuss the safety of returning to theaters in time for Black Widow. He explained that the COVID health situation, "looks pretty good, at the moment" and cited an improvement over the course of the previous six weeks. "May 2021 is, coincidentally, about six weeks away," Heilbron explained. "If we continue on this particular path, it seems reasonable to expect this good news to continue."  This statement, of course, comes with the caveat that no variants get in the way. 

Dr. Mo concluded that, "Yes, it's totally plausible the movie can be released," in May. However, there were thoughts Dr. Mo wanted to impart in addition to the potential issue of mutant strains: Heilbron qualified that restrictions would still need to be maintained. "Limit attendance, mandate masks, and no food allowed (at least initially)," he said. "Create a semblance of what pre-COVID social entertainment was like."

"Strictly enforce those measures up front, and there shouldn't be a problem," Dr. Mo believes. "We were able to get some crowds together safely for some large sporting events these last few months."

The only concern Heilbron has is over whether theaters could be the first domino to set loose a tumbling spiral. "There's the rub: will people then flock to surrounding restaurants and bars, overcrowding them?" Heilbron asks. "That is definitely a concern. Perhaps this might be an avenue of research, to see if there were increases in hospital admission rates (or some other more appropriate metric) in communities hosting large sporting events."

Black Widow, starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, and David Harbour, debuts in theaters May 7, 2021.