With much of the United States hunkered down and anticipating a surge in cases in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it is far too early to hazard a guess as to when things may begin getting back to normal. But, in the live events space, there’s one hypothesis for what things may look like when they do.
Built on the notion of minimizing the potential spread of pathogens by spreading attendees out, Checkerboard Seating staggers individuals throughout rows, distancing them to a horizontal distance of three feet at minimum.
While it requires the sacrifice of filling every seat, the checkerboard design relies on the understanding that transmission of droplets (which carry potential pathogens from one individual to another – when they sneeze, for example). Research says that the amount and size of droplets decreases exponentially after three feet. And in a theater-seating scenario, patrons are not facing each other, which further reduces the risk of transmission.
The system is still in its initial phase of build-out, with its first show – a Bob Saget performance – on sale as of late last week. But with events across the United States and many other countries expected to be on hiatus until at least April, if not much later, it is a potentially viable alternative for bringing events back on line in a manner that allows for safe attendance sooner.
Understanding the science involves a deep dive into the world of fluid dynamics. But studies have shown that individuals suffering from respiratory infections diseases such as the current pandemic are spread through the transmission of virus microorganisms in droplets expressed when the infected individual coughs. The size of droplets is a major contributor to the potential for that transmission, and those droplets decrease in size and frequency when there’s enough distance between individuals.
It remains to be seen what organization will take the first step towards bringing events back online, but if Checkerboard Seating pans out, we may see a new configuration at those first events once this blows over.
PHOTO: President Donald Trump addresses media following the White House Correspondents Association seating chart, which keeps every other seat empty – in a checkerboard pattern. By Evan Vucci/AP Photo