New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer has joined the calls to expand vaccine eligibility to members of the theater industry.
In a letter sent to New York Gov. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker Friday, Stringer urged the state to prioritize theater and entertainment workers for vaccination, particularly as venues begin to reopen at reduced capacities in April. The call comes a day after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to open vaccination sites for Broadway and Off-Broadway workers, but without the means to offer vaccines to those workers based on their employment.
“Vaccinating these workers will both protect the health and safety of our world-class theatre professionals and reassure the public that our theaters are safe spaces to catch a show,” Stringer wrote in the letter.
The comptroller specifically called for extended eligibility for “all stagehands, ushers, backstage workers, technicians, and other professionals involved in re-opening theaters, venues, and performance spaces.” Some of these workers may begin returning to work starting April 2, following Cuomo’s proclamation that theaters can host up to 150 attendees who have been tested for COVID-19 by that date.
It’s also meant as a way to pave the path toward a full reopening. Actors’ Equity has been calling for prioritization of theater workers in the vaccination process as one of the primary means to get members back to work. The union, which has been criticized for its complex safety rules for current productions, has said it will adapt these protocols once workers are vaccinated.
As it stands, only New Yorkers ages 50 and older, as well as those with specified underlying conditions or employment as healthcare workers, teachers and in other public-facing fields qualify for vaccination. The state eligibility process is determined by Gov. Cuomo.
Cuomo’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the calls to prioritize theater workers for vaccination. In a press conference Friday, Cuomo did not speak to new eligibility, but announced a direct partnership between the state and SOMOS Community Care, a network of close to 2,500 providers in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn, in an effort to bring vaccines to the hardest hit communities.
President Biden has directed all states to make vaccines eligible to all adults by May 1. That directive played into the decision to open up Broadway and Off-Broadway vaccination sites, de Blasio said Thursday.
Stringer also called for an extension of eligibility to those working in film, television and other areas of entertainment.
“Extending eligibility to just one segment of the entertainment industry when all workers require the same protection would be short sighted. It is therefore critical that all entertainment professionals be included,” he wrote.