I was privileged recently to listen in on a Broadway discussion about Covid. Dr. Brian Koll, an infectious disease specialist and the Broadway League’s official epidemiologist, presented information on CDC guidelines, testing protocols, how to mitigate your risk, what to do if you get sick, and insights on the virus’s continuing effect on the world. Other high-level presenters discussed the specific effect on Broadway shows and how Broadway was coping with it all.
Overview of discussion:
We learned that in a three-week period more than 50 Broadway performances had been cancelled due to sickness amongst show personnel. Attendance at shows was virtually cut in half between the week ending Dec 12 and Dec 26. Several shows were forced to close.
But Broadway has no intention of shutting down. Even as we speak, wraps are going back to positive territory and there are lots of new shows opening in March and April 2022, including what I think will be a very special show, Larry Kirwan's Paradise Square, "a galvanizing story of racial harmony undone by a country at war with itself" which opens at the Barrymore Theatre on March 15.
The good thing that we are seeing is that consumers still want to come and see shows! Live theater will survive Covid!
Dr Koll noted that it’s been a challenging few years…recommendations from health authorities are changing as more knowledge is gained, but the change rather than assuring people that we are learning from science, makes people anxious. When we have the job of enforcing these guidelines, it can make us anxious too!
Why did the Omicron variant spread so quickly? Because of so many mutations on its spike proteins. These made it very easy to travel, reproduce and infect people. It’s somewhere between chicken pox and measles as far as contagion potential. Thankfully Omicron doesn’t produce as severe a disease as Delta and prior versions. This version doesn’t seem to attack the lungs in the same way, rather it prefers to infect throats noses and airways with more of a bronchitis type picture than a pneumonia. It’s more treatable at home than other versions were. That’s not to call it mild. Just less deadly.
When will it peak? Between Jan 18 and Feb 3. After that should begin to decrease, possibly quite rapidly. (This discussion took place in early January so it's nice to see these predictions holding true!)
Current recommendations: your mask should be multilayered and tight fitting. No more bandanas. CDC is recommending that everyone where possible stick to a K95 mask.
As far as your own health goes, you can come back to work 5 days after no symptoms and a negative test. If you are not able to get tested, then the time to stay home is 10 days after symptoms.
We think the worst of Omicron is past. People are still anxious to attend live theatre when they feel the precautions will keep them safe. Wraps are already heading back to the positive, and as Omicron recedes, we hope to get a bit of a break and see a more normal spring season without any new variants proving to be more severe. People are getting anxious for their normal lives to resume and that includes attending live theatre!
What are you seeing in your venues? Is the same pattern we are seeing on Broadway holding true in your area? In spite of current cancellations, are you successfully booking new shows for the spring season? What are your biggest challenges right now? Are they different from what they were a few months ago? How are you holding up and what are you doing to help your staff avoid burnout? How are YOU taking care of YOURSELF?
Stay healthy everyone!
Mary Ann O’Rourke
VP of Operations
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