With concerns about rising coronavirus case numbers, Broadway theater owners and operators have announced that customers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear masks to attend performances as shows reopen. The policy was already in place for the one currently open show – Springsteen on Broadway – but will now apply to all others until at least October. Children under 12 can show proof of a recent negative COVID test to be allowed in, as they are not currently able to receive any vaccinations.
These rules come just days before Pass Over is set to be the second show to reopen, with additional reopenings in August and a wider reopening including favorites like Hamilton and The Lion King in September. All 41 Brodaway theaters will adhere to the vaccination and mask-wearing rules through at least October, according to the New York Times.
“We have said from Day 1 that we want our casts, our crews and our audiences to be safe, and we believe that this is a precaution to ensure that,” said Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League. “We’re doing everything we can to open safely and protect everyone.”
The audience requirement followed shortly after the announcement of safety protocols for cast and crew members that also require full vaccination against COVID-19 for those who are over the age of 12, as well as weekly testing. Each production will also be required to employ an onsite safety manager who’s job will be to monitor adherence to protocols and potential signs of symptoms. The safety plan also requires updated ventilation systems including MERV-13 air filters and HEPA air cleaners in areas of poor ventillation.
“This is an important milestone on the path to getting all our members safely back to work,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity. “We are grateful to the League for their partnership on these protocols. We all feel this plan is robust, adaptable to changing conditions and in line with the science. Vaccines work, and those who are vaccinated will protect both themselves and those who can’t be at this time.”
While the reopening of many public spaces and live events has unfolded rapidly in the last few months, stalls in the speed of vaccinations and the emergence of a highly contagious “delta” variant of the virus that ground much of the world to a halt in March 2020 has caused many event operators to move towards more restrictions to hopefully avoid the need for another full-scale closure. Earlier this week, the Center for Disease Control recommended that even fully vaccinated individuals wear masks inside public places in areas that have high case rates. New York City, the early epicenter of the disease in the U.S., is one such area.
Thus far, all productions that have announced reopening timelines appear on track to do so, despite the renewed sense of caution. Hopes remain high that the current rise in case numbers will nudge vaccine-hesitant populations into action, and remove any potential for further restrictions or a reversal of reopening that the event industry has waited so long for.