Future Tense

Signs Are Pointing to a Rough Fall

Hot Vax Summer is turning into No-Fun Fall.

A singer puts her hand on her head while singing. Two male guitarists are shown blurry in the background of the image.
Stevie Nicks performs at the 2019 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

While Lollapalooza 2021 went off with surprisingly low numbers of COVID cases despite thousands in attendance—thanks in part to vaccination numbers and the event’s outdoor nature—it seems that many events this fall are destined for cancellation. Take rock legend Stevie Nicks, who has officially canceled a string of shows across the U.S. due to concerns of rising COVID-19 case counts. On Tuesday, there were more than 130,000 new cases of the coronavirus reported to the CDC, compared with just 7,385 cases reported on June 21.

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So while news outlets and social media users alike were hyping up the arrival of “Hot Vax Summer,” as Nicks muses in Fleetwood Mac’s smash hit “Gypsy,” it seems that “She was just a wish/ She was just a wish/ And her memory is all that is left for you now.” In the past month, the Atlantic proclaimed that “Hot Vax Summer Crumbled Before My Eyes” and Vice openly wondered whether it was even happening. Now the fall is looking even bleaker. Or as Wired senior writer Maryn McKenna—who inspired this post—put it on Twitter: “Fall unlikely to be fun.”

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So just in time for everything to shutter once more, let’s recap what’s no longer happening this fall season.

Festivals and Concerts

While DaBaby concerts everywhere are getting canceled because he’s a homophobic jerk, several other concerts are shuttering due to COVID itself. Like the psychedelic jam band the String Cheese Incident (forgive my Gen Z self for not knowing who they were until just now, and finding their alleged story about convincing cops that shrooms were string cheese highly unbelievable), who had to cancel shows after a vaccinated member of the band tested positive for the virus. In a remarkably poignant statement about the show, the band said “We are super bummed we can’t play music for y’all, but this how the world seems to run these days.” Rock icon Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones have canceled their Buffalo, New York, tour date, along with delaying various shows announced a few weeks back. Following a Lolla performance, Limp Bizkit has canceled its remaining August tour dates out of an abundance of caution. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival also canceled its 2021 date. However, not all live music is going by the wayside—instead some festivals like Bonnaroo will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, much like Lolla did.

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Music festivals aren’t the only gatherings under a virus attack. Ascension Parish in Louisiana canceled its late August plans for the Jambalaya Festival citing a recent surge in the state. (Damn COVID, even trifling my ability to consume delicious andouille sausage creations in peace.) For the second year in a row, the television network Bravo has canceled its fan event BravoCon. Not to mention, the Big Dog Run Tour of podcast by the McElroy family (of the podcasts My Brother, My Brother, and Me, Sawbones, and Adventure Zone) announced a fall tour on Monday—only to cancel it Tuesday.

Academic and Public Conferences

Festivalgoers aren’t the only ones feeling the whiplash of event cancellations. The 11th Annual Texas Tribune Festival in late September has decided to scrap their hybrid schedule and move entirely to a virtual format. The 2021 Conference for the Association of Health Care Journalists is scrambling to find new dates next year. The annual New York International Auto Show was canceled last week following NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of new restrictions on indoor venues. The pandemic has also canceled a whole mess of academic conferences, which has brought both positive and negative feedback. Recently, the University of Chicago’s Department of Economics has made the decision to postpone both the Science of Philanthropy Initiative and Advances with Field Experiments conferences, originally scheduled for September.

Office Reopenings

On Thursday, Facebook pushed its return to office date to January 2022 from its previously scheduled October date. And it’s not alone: A slew of tech companies made the same decision recently, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Uber, Amazon, and Lyft. The employment website Indeed moved its date back from Sep. 7 to Jan. 3. Some companies are hoping the COVID spike is only temporary and have issued shorter delays—like Wells Fargo, which only pushed its return date back a month into early October.

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That said, in-person return dates for companies are clearly a moving target, as Box CEO Aaron Levie noted on Twitter:

Travel

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And while many dreamed of post-pandemic travel—and some have started early as restrictions eased—that trend is also waning. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has published new maps that recommend multiple member states of the European Union should issue travel restrictions. If you were thinking of a nice island locale, it would help to know that while Hawaii hasn’t changed travel regulations, it has reduced capacity for bars and reinstated mask mandates for indoor destinations. Travelers inbound to Hong Kong must now quarantine on their own dime in a government-approved hotel anywhere from seven to 21 days. Travel restrictions to the United States remain in place for those arriving from the United Kingdom, Schengen nations (that is, most of the EU), and other countries including India, South Africa, Iran, and Brazil.

So much for a new, new normal—it seems like this fall will be much of the same. Sitting at home, binging Netflix, and wondering when vaccination rates will rise to a level that could actually provide herd immunity.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.

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