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No, the pandemic hasn’t ended. It’s still having a significant impact on indoor family and children’s venues

No, the pandemic hasn’t ended. It’s still having a significant impact on indoor family and children’s venues

Covid infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are increasing again in many parts of the U.S. as the more contagious Delta variant spreads. Most infections are for unvaccinated people, but even the fully vaccinated are getting infected, as the mRNA vaccines are still only 90% effective. The majority of infections are now with young people, as they have the lowest vaccination rates. Covid is currently killing at the rate of over 100,000 people per year in the U.S., a far higher death rate than society accepts for any other disease, including the flu.

And on the horizon is the Lambda variant that has come out of Peru. It appears to be even more transmissible than Delta and could result in higher reinfection rates or reduced vaccine efficacy.

We already see an uptick in concern about visiting public places. CivicScience’s June polls found that adults very or somewhat concerned about visiting public places increased from 48% at the beginning of June to 58% at the end of the month, with those not at all concerned declining from 51% to 42%. The Harris Poll is finding a similar trend of increasing concern. Fear of returning to public activity is up 8-points from 46% on May 16th to 54% on July 4th. Comfort with going out to dinner and drinks dropped 3-points over the week before July 4th.

The growing risk of infection significantly concerns families with children younger than age 12, as currently, there is no approved vaccine for young children. Research by IMPACTS Experience as of July 2nd found the majority of people with children under age 13 don’t feel comfortable attending cultural venues without a mask. Their research found a wide disparity on whether cultural venues should have mandatory mask requirements. For high-propensity visitors, people who intend to visit in the next 90 days, only one-third (32%) of households without children <13 believe the venue should have a mask mandate. For families with children <13, it rises to two-thirds wanting a mask requirement (68%).

IMPACTS Experience’s research found that families with young children continue to choose to stay home or participate in activities that are perceived as safer for their unvaccinated children than indoor experiences, the same leisure activity preferences they’ve had throughout the pandemic. These are outdoor activities include zoos, gardens, outdoor historical sites, and outdoor performances. Many of our company’s agritourism clients saw an increase in attendance last year over 2019 and continue to see attendance at historic levels this year due to their experiences being outdoors.

For the immediate future, any entertainment or cultural venues that primarily target families with young children should seriously consider having a mask requirement to maximize their appeal and attendance.

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About Randy White

Randy White is CEO and co-founder of the White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. The 31-year-old company, with offices in Kansas City, Missouri, has worked for over 600 clients in 37 countries throughout the world. Projects the company has designed and produced have won seventeen 1st place awards. Randy is considered to be one of the world's foremost authorities on feasibility, brand development, design and production of leisure experience destinations including entertainment, eatertainment, edutainment, agritainment/agritourism, play and leisure facilities.

Randy was featured on the Food Network's Unwrapped television show as an eatertainment expert, quoted as an entertainment/edutainment center expert in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times and Time magazine and received recognition for family-friendly designs by Pizza Today magazine. One of the company's projects was featured as an example of an edutainment project in the book The Experience Economy. Numerous national newspapers have interviewed him as an expert on shopping center and mall entertainment and retail-tainment.

Randy is a graduate of New York University. Prior to repositioning the company in 1989 to work exclusively in the leisure and learning industry, White Hutchinson was active in the retail/commercial real estate industry as a real estate consultancy specializing in workouts/turnarounds of commercial projects. In the late 1960s to early 1980s, Randy managed a diversified real estate development company that developed, owned and managed over 2.0 million square feet of shopping centers and mixed-use projects and 2,000 acres of residential subdivisions. Randy has held the designations of CSM (Certified Shopping Center Manager) and Certified Retail Property Executive (CRX) from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

He has authored over 150 articles that have been published in over 40 leading entertainment/leisure and early childhood education industry magazines and journals and has been a featured speaker and keynoter at over 40 different conventions and trade groups.

Randy is the editor of his company's Leisure eNewsletter, has a blog and posts on Twitter and Linkedin.

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