Most of Broadway ends vaccine checks as cases rise in New York

A man had his photo ID in hand as he walked to the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater on Broadway for see “Come From Away”, but no one has veri...

A man had his photo ID in hand as he walked to the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater on Broadway for see “Come From Away”, but no one has verified it. Families flocking to see ‘The Lion King’ were told to have their tickets and masks, but there was no mention of vaccine cards. And the covid the security guards in fluorescent yellow vests patrolling outside “Six” were gone.

Most Broadway theaters stopped checking their patrons’ vaccination status this week for the first time since they began reopening last summer, easing safety protocols the same week rise in coronavirus cases placed New York in a higher level of risk.

The industry hopes the removal of vaccine checks — which have also been eliminated at restaurants, movie theaters and other venues in New York City — will make theater more appealing, and that the remaining mask mandate will help ensure safety. from the public as cases have increased, but hospitalizations and deaths remain low.

While some patrons welcomed the change, others said they felt uncomfortable entering crowded theaters without assurances that their seat neighbors were vaccinated, and several nonprofit theaters of Broadway continue to require proof of vaccination.

“I just don’t feel as safe as I have for the past few months,” said Lauren Broyles, 44, an executive assistant from Hershey, Pa., who has traveled to New York to see shows several times in the winter. last, but said she stopped planning a summer theater trip after reading that Broadway dropped its vaccine mandate. “I’m waiting to hear the rest.”

But Michael Anderson, 48, of Hudson, NY, who was in line the other day to see ‘Hanged Man’, said he thought if vaccine checks made sense sooner, he felt they wouldn’t. were no longer needed. “At this point, I’m vaccinated and boosted,” he said.

The changes to safety protocols come as Broadway yearns for a profitable spring. More than a dozen shows opened last montha major and risky bet for a theater industry trying to bounce back a harsh winter in which the virus forced a number of shows to cancel performances during the crucial holiday period and others to close prematurely.

However, some of the virus-related turmoil continued. stars of which Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Daniel Craig and Laurence Fishburne have all tested positive for the virus, missed shows and, in some cases, caused cancellations. So many actors have come out with coronavirus cases that Tony Award nominations have been delayed until Monday to give nominators more time to view all eligible performances.

Broadway theater owners and operators were among the first to require patrons to show proof of vaccines and wear masks, acting together to come up with a common set of protocols even before the city adopted similar vaccine requirements for many indoor activities. Now there is no uniform policy. While all owners and operators of for-profit theaters on Broadway have agreed to stop checking for vaccination evidence as of May 1 (“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” continues to require proof of vaccination for certain people in its special table near the stage and the cast), three of the four nonprofit theater operators on Broadway have decided to keep their vaccination mandates in place.

The vaccine mandate is lifted because 77% of New York State residents were fully vaccinated. But Broadway relies heavily on tourists, and the nationwide vaccination rate is lower: two-thirds of US residents are fully vaccinated.

Removing the warrant will save theaters money by cutting the jobs of people who have been hired to check for vaccination evidence. Jeff Whiting, the president of SwifTesting, a company that has worked with the Shubert organization to help enforce Covid protocols in its theaters, said his company provided between five and 10 security guards per show at a cost for productions between $5,000 and $10,000 per week. About half of those positions have now been cut, Mr Whiting said, with the rest of the workers being retained to help enforce the mask mandate.

Officials running the three nonprofits that decided to keep their vaccination mandates said their priority was to maintain the trust of key members of their audiences, and in particular their subscribers.

“Our patrons purchased tickets and, in the case of subscribers, were assigned performances through May with the understanding that they would enter a fully vaccinated and masked environment,” said Steve Dow, executive director of the Roundabout Theater Company, in a statement. statement about his series of “birthday candles” on Broadway.

“We know that uniform approaches to Covid policies across Broadway have helped create clear messages to date,” he added, “but the bottom line is that as a nonprofit institutional theater , our audience relies on longstanding and ongoing relationships.”

Adam Siegel, the general manager of the Lincoln Center Theater, which runs another Broadway theater that has met its vaccination mandate, acknowledged that keeping the requirement made it a bit of an outlier at a time when restaurants and the most other theaters did not verify vaccination status. . “But on the other hand, there’s also a slight uptick,” he said, which made the relaxation of requirements “incongruous.”

“I’d rather not write to my subscriber base and say, ‘We know you bought tickets with a comfort level, but we just changed your mind,'” Mr. Siegel said.

Several epidemiologists said in interviews that removing the vaccine requirement while maintaining the mask mandate was understandable, as there was growing evidence that whether vaccines are effective in protecting people against diseases serious, they do not eliminate the risk of infection and transmission.

“I think that’s pretty reasonable, honestly,” said Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health, Broadway, dropping the vaccine mandate. “We know that masks – if they are good masks – do a very good job of protecting the wearer and those around you.”

Dr Blythe Adamson, an infectious disease epidemiologist who has advised several Broadway shows on their Covid policy through her company, Infectious Economics, said she supports the new protocols.

Since March, when the city phased out the vaccine warrants in restaurants, many exploded. New York City Hospitality Alliance executive director Andrew Rigie said “business has generally increased at restaurants” since the rules were relaxed “for a myriad of reasons.”

Security protocols are changing rapidly. Federal judge struck down a national mask requirement for airplanes last month. But a person getting off a plane in New York and then getting on the subway still has to wear a mask while driving.

In Times Square this week, some of the sidewalks outside Broadway theaters seemed a little less crowded than in recent months, and people seemed to be streaming into theaters faster without waiting for their vaccine passes. be inspected.

“I got into the theater a lot faster because they weren’t checking vaccination cards,” said Lee Seymour, 34, a theater producer and journalist, recalling a recent visit to Broadway. “But there’s also a real psychic benefit to knowing that you’re in a room full of people who continue to take a deadly virus very seriously.”

Virus protocols have divided the country, and they are also dividing some onlookers.

Brittany Petruzzi, 35, said she wanted Broadway to drop its mask mandate as well and said she would not see a Broadway show during her trip to New York this year, as is her custom, as she found that the restrictions on Broadway remain too onerous.

“The first Broadway show to drop the mask requirement will get my business, whether I want to go see that particular show or not,” said Ms. Petruzzi, of Kernersville, North Carolina. “I have no interest in seeing a masked play. I think it’s too much of a hindrance to what theater does so well, which is to unite people.

But for Kathy Findon, 58, of New Jersey, the risk of exposure – and the possibility of lingering symptoms – was always on the mind.

“I went almost two and a half years without having contracted Covid,” she said. “Long Covid is a problem. Why should I take my chance? »

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Newsrust - US Top News: Most of Broadway ends vaccine checks as cases rise in New York
Most of Broadway ends vaccine checks as cases rise in New York
Newsrust - US Top News
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