Note: Because the coronavirus situation is changing rapidly, some of the information in this post is outdated. Please see the current list of streaming, cancelled, and postponed productions in Utah.
UTAH — With the ever growing media attention for the new coronavirus, there is a lot being said about the situation. Schools throughout Utah are moving classes online and universities have limited large gatherings or cancelled them altogether. The NBA has suspended its season, and two Utah Jazz players have tested positive for the virus.
COVID-19 — as this new strain of the novel coronavirus is called — is making itself known throughout the world. And Utah is not left out.
The first step for preparation is to not panic. The World Health Organization (WHO) defined COVID-19 as a pandemic by saying, “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It’s a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.”
Health officials, the WHO and the Utah Department of Health encourage everyone to wash their hands for 20 seconds, and if you think you have symptoms of coronavirus, call your healthcare provider. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a great list of what to do if you are sick.
If I have theater tickets? Should I still go?
The key to understanding the situation is being educated about the virus and who is most susceptible. People of all ages can contract the coronavirus, but the mortality rate for some groups are higher than others. So far, there are only three cases of COVID-19 in Utah, though the number will likely increase. Currently, the possibility of contracting the virus are low. However, you should still follow the recommended precautions. Governor Herbert has stated that people over the age of 60 or who have compromised immune systems should avoid gatherings of over 20 people. That means that those people should not be attending a play. The Centers for Disease Control has announced other groups that are at risk, and we recommend that you follow those guidelines if you belong to one of those groups.
Additionally, no one should attend a play if they are experiencing cold- or flu-like symptoms. If you do decide to go to a play, remember that even if you are healthy and low-risk, you can still pass the virus on to others. Limit physical contact with others and sit as far away from other patrons as possible. Wash your hands thoroughly for 30 seconds often and if you must cough or sneeze, cover your face.
Implement a Plan
Theatre companies need to plan. The Eccles Theater has a plan set into place and is ready for the situations that may arise. Their website says: “The health and safety of our audience, staff, cast and crew is our highest priority, and we are committed to providing a clean and safe environment at the Eccles Theater. We are following all governmental guidelines and taking extra precautions including sanitation stations, and implementing extensive cleaning and disinfecting protocols. We intend to stay the course with our programming schedule. We will remain vigilant and are prepared to make decisions based on current needs, as well as in response to changing conditions.” In other words, they’re doing all they can and they’ll let you know if shows are cancelled.
Other theater companies have not responded if they have a plan in place or not.
Smaller theatre companies in Utah should follow the example of the Eccles Theater, by placing alcohol-based sanitation stations in lobbies and other highly trafficked areas, as well as following in-depth cleaning recommendations. The CDC encourages organizations to have a plan in case of an outbreak. These suggestions include: prepare and do as much as possible to prevent an outbreak at the large gathering, have an action plan and determine if the event needs to be cancelled or postponed to slow spreading, and evaluate the effectiveness of the operations and plans. Implementing these guidelines can help provide a better experience for all involved within the theater community.
This means that companies need to decide what conditions will necessitate cancelling a performance and what the back-up plan will be. Who will be in charge of refunding and/or exchanging tickets? Can makeup performances be scheduled? Can a performance be streamed online to patrons? Can the show sell fewer tickets and run below full capacity? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered before coronavirus strikes a theatre company. It may now be too late, because Governer Herbert has recommended that mass gatherings in Utah will be limited to 100 people for the next two weeks (i.e., through March 28) and possibly longer. UTBA endorses this recommendation, and we encourage theaters with seating capacity above 100 to start adjusting to smaller crowd sizes or cancelling performances.
The pandemic has impacted shows in Utah, and we are maintaining a list of productions that have been cancelled, postponed, or otherwise impacted by the coronavirus. The consequences, though, are being felt nationwide. On Broadway, according to Broadway Direct. A part-time usher and security guard for two separate shows tested positive and that person has now been quarantined. Today (March 12), Governor Cuomo closed all mass gatherings in New York of 500 people or more until April 12. Venues with capacity lower than 500 must be at no more than 50% capacity. That means all of Broadway is dark for the next month, and all other New York City shows will be closed or only half-full. Cancelled performances and closures are widespread Off-Broadway, and Off-Broadway. Theatre companies ine very major city in the United States have also cancelled performances or limited ticket sales.