Here are the health and safety measures Broadway theatres use to keep audiences protected
Read about all the Covid-19 safety protocols theatres have implemented, including regular testing for performers, increased cleaning, mask-wearing, and more.
The surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant has caused multiple theatre performance cancellations in the past month, and some shows have announced early closings as a result. Many audiences are wondering whether it is safe to attend the theatre. Though the virus is undeniably affecting New York theatres, the industry does not plan to shut down again, as theatres continue to implement many protocols to keep audiences, performers, and theatre staff safe.
Performance cancellations ensure that everyone in a company has time to test negative before sharing a venue with audiences, and keep attendees safer as a result. Theatres are also still undergoing regular cleaning, requiring vaccines and masks, and minimizing unnecessary contact between performers and audiences. Read below about the measures New York venues are taking that still make the theatre a safe place to be.
Requiring full vaccination for all audiences, casts, crews, and theatre staff to enter the theatre is one of the most sweeping ways that theatres are ensuring audience safety. Per New York City government mandates, all theatregoers ages 12 and older must be fully vaccinated to attend an indoor performance through at least February 28. The Broadway League, which oversees all 41 Broadway venues, has backed these mandates for Broadway theatres; Off-Broadway theatres also comply with this mandate.
"Fully vaccinated" currently means having received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or the single dose of a one-dose vaccine 14 days before the performance. Those with a medical condition or religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated may present proof of a recent negative test to ensure that they are virus-free. Read more about the vaccine mandates at Broadway shows.
Children ages 5-11 must have received at least one dose of a vaccine in order to attend a performance and be accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult. Like those 12 and older, they may only present proof of a negative test if they have a medical condition or religious belief that prevents vaccination. Read more about the vaccine requirements for kids at Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.
Booster shots are currently not required at any Broadway venues, but this information is subject to change. Read more about booster shot policies at New York shows.
All Broadway theatres and most Off-Broadway spaces require audiences to be masked at all times, regardless of age or vaccination status. Certain theatres do allow audiences to remove their masks to eat and drink in designated areas, but in light of the spread of Omicron, many theatres have temporarily stopped selling concessions so audiences need not remove their mask while in the theatre.
All cast members are also masked at Broadway venues whenever they're not performing. Stage crews and theatre staff are masked at all times while in the venue.
Covid safety officers
Many theatres have hired Covid safety workers. They check proof of vaccination for audiences at the door, make sure no one enters without a mask, and remind people to wear their mask correctly once inside. Theatre ushers are trained to perform this job if a venue does not have designated Covid safety officers to enforce protocols among audiences.
There are also Covid safety officers who work backstage and are in charge of contact tracing and administering Covid-19 tests to casts, crews, and staff when they arrive. Dr. Blythe Adamson, an epidemiologist who was hired to oversee one of the first shows to reopen Broadway, Pass Over, described the role of Covid safety officers in an interview with Broadway News: "This is a full-time person who's first in the room, last out of the room. They are monitoring who's in the space and the test results, doing some of the supplemental cleaning, ensuring that the ventilation and airflow plans are in place and working and writing daily reports. These reports provide us with documentation so that if there were a positive case, among the cast or crew, we know exactly who was around and for what durations and what proximity. They are also available to identify and respond to anyone who may experience any COVID-like symptoms."
Daily testing for casts, crews, and staff
Everyone who works on a Broadway show — including the performers, stage crew, and theatre staff — get tested every day upon arriving to the venue. This ensures that positive cases are detected and isolated as early as possible, so if an understudy needs to step in or a performance needs to be canceled to prevent further spread of Covid-19, it can happen before audiences arrive.
Increased cleaning and ventilation
Theatres have installed upgraded filtration and ventilation systems, including MERV 13 and 14 filters, to keep air circulating while the venues are filled with people. Theatres are also thoroughly cleaned and sanitized at least once daily, and multiple hand sanitizing stations have been installed in each Broadway theatre for audiences to use while in the venue.
Before the pandemic, audiences could wait outside the stage door after a Broadway show, and performers would sometimes come out and greet audiences. To minimize contact between performers and audiences and limit large gatherings outside the theatre, this practice, called "stagedooring," has stopped indefinitely. Broadway theatres are also not offering tours or outside guests in the dressing room or anywhere backstage for the time being.
While not the ideal situation, a canceled theatre performance isn't a reason to panic or believe that the theatre is unsafe. Canceling a performance if a company member tests positive for Covid-19, or is awaiting a test result, is a precautionary safety measure. It gives the rest of the cast and crew time to get re-tested, ensuring as best as possible that everyone in the venue is Covid negative before going ahead with a performance. A performance cancellation also allows extra time for the theatre to be thoroughly cleaned before audiences enter the venue again.
In addition, most performance cancellations are temporary, and plenty of shows are still running as scheduled. Find out which shows have canceled performances and which shows you can get tickets to right now.
Photo credit: Tai's Captures via Unsplash
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