Experts Warn Movie Theaters Can Be Risky During Pandemic

Movie theaters are perfect environments for a virus to live, according to an infection disease expert

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As a spike in coronavirus cases has the county closing bars, wineries and breweries that don't serve food, other places for entertainment are still a go.

So far, movie theaters are allowed to remain open, but some experts think that's risky. San Diego County allowed movie theaters to reopen a few weeks ago, with restrictions like social distancing, sanitizing, seat coverings, wearing masks and closed water fountains, to name a few.

The Carreon family went out to see the movie "Trolls, World Tour" in the Gaslamp District on Monday night. Signs were posted on the entrance doors stating that masks were required.

“We should sit separately, like social distancing, right?” asked Atcharee Carreon, accompanying her kids and husband.

Some people may not even realize that theatres are open because so few have actually opened their doors. In fact, some major theater chains have pushed their opening dates to mid-July.

“Personally, I miss the movie theaters because it was perfect quality time for me and my girlfriend, and going out with family and stuff like that," said Justin Brooks, a passer-by.

Infectious disease experts like Sumit Chanda warn that it’s a definite risk -- almost a perfect storm.

"There's no sun, which kills the virus, and there's no wind, which disperses the virus," Chanda said. "And it's at ambient temperature which the virus lives, ok, and so the virus is very stable in indoor conditions."

At Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Chanda leads a team of scientists working on Covid-19 treatments.

"There's no secret playbook here that you know people are going through," Chanda said. "And you know, I think that the people who are the experts are willing to course-correct if needed."

With coronavirus cases increasing, more closures could be in store.

“I think it's very important that all of us don't become complacent and let our guard down," Chanda said. "And, listen: Are movie theaters going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back? No. But in aggregate? It's movie theaters, it’s [people not wearing] masks, people you know going into work.”

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