Coming to Broadway: Vaccinations for New York’s Theater Workers

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Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday that the city plans to create a coronavirus vaccination site on Broadway that will be reserved for theater industry workers, promising to dedicate city resources to help Broadway theaters reopen for live performances in the fall.

At a news conference, Mr. de Blasio said that in addition to the Broadway vaccination site, there would be a mobile vaccination unit to serve theater workers beyond Broadway. The sites will be staffed by theater workers, many of whom have been relying on unemployment insurance since Broadway shut down over a year ago.

“This is going to be a year to turn things around,” Mr. de Blasio said. “It’s time to raise the curtain and bring Broadway back.”

The city’s plans will not change the state’s rules around vaccine eligibility, which currently allow residents older than 50 to sign up for shots, as well as those in certain job categories and with certain health conditions. Mr. de Blasio said that the sites would be set up over the next four weeks or so and that vaccination eligibility is expected to be much more broad by then.

“We want to get the Broadway community involved, and the Off Broadway community, in vaccinating their own folks, by definition a very high percentage of whom are eligible right now,” he said. “We also know that in just a matter of four or five weeks, at latest, everyone will be eligible. I won’t be surprised if that even is sooner.”

There will also be pop-up coronavirus testing sites located at or nearby Broadway and Off Broadway theaters to make sure that there is ample testing available as the theater industry tries to get back on its feet. The city will be assisting Broadway theaters in developing plans to manage crowds as they flow in and out of venues.

This month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that arts, entertainment and events venues can reopen April 2 at 33 percent capacity, with a limit of 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors, and higher limits if patrons show they have tested negative for the coronavirus. But Broadway producers say it is not economically feasible to run commercial productions at reduced capacity, and although there are likely to be some special events inside theaters this spring and summer, full-scale plays and musicals are not likely to open until after Labor Day.

Mr. de Blasio urged the state to create clear guidelines for the theater industry around mask usage, as well as on how audience members can prove they were vaccinated or received a negative Covid-19 test result before a performance.

Mr. de Blasio was joined at the virtual news conference by two Broadway performers, André De Shields, a Tony winner for “Hadestown,” and Telly Leung, who most recently appeared in the musical “In Transit.” Both of them welcomed the mayor’s support.

“We’re ready, we’ve stayed in shape, our voices are strong,” Mr. De Shields said. “All we need is a stage.”

Mr. Leung said reopening would require safety measures for performers and audience members.

“This pandemic has hit our industry particularly hard,” he said. “We all have a long way to go as a community, but I really do think that today is a really good first step in our healing.”

Actors’ Equity, the labor union representing 51,000 stage actors and stage managers around the country, welcomed the mayor’s announcement. The union, which has barred its members from working in all but a few dozen productions before live audiences during the past year, has been eager to see its members vaccinated to make the return to the stage safer.

“Today’s announcement is an important recognition from the City of New York that a strong theater industry means a healthy, strong economy,” said Mary McColl, the union’s executive director. “Mayor de Blasio clearly understands that we cannot socially distance in our work, making the availability of vaccines and testing critical for maintaining a safe workplace.”

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