The Broadway League is speaking with theatrical unions to ensure workers receive a COVID-19 booster shot, President Charlotte St. Martin said Wednesday.
The news comes as case numbers rise in New York City, leading to the cancellation of several Broadway productions this week. The Metropolitan Opera announced Wednesday that it will require employees and audience members to receive a booster shot, becoming the first major cultural institution to do so.
The Broadway League currently requires all cast and company members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but has not yet announced a policy for a booster shot.
“At the present time we are speaking with our unions about establishing a process to make sure that all of our eligible employees get a booster shot,” St. Martin said. “All of our experts are emphasizing the importance of boosters in providing the maximum protection against the virus at this point in time. As always, our number one priority is the safety and security of our cast, crew and theatregoers.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also been recommending that adults receive a booster shot — six months after the second Pfizer or Moderna shot or two months after the single Johnson & Johnson vaccine — to ensure greater protection against the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
The number of COVID-19 cases in New York City have been increasing. In the past 14 days, cases in New York City have risen 119%, according to data compiled by the New York Times. On Dec. 14, the daily average hit 3,194 cases.
New York and New Jersey have the highest rate of the new Omicron variant in the U.S. The variant was detected in 13% of samples in both states, compared to a 3% average nationwide, according to a recent update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As cases rise, several Broadway productions have gone dark for one performance or more after breakthrough cases were found within the fully vaccinated companies.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” canceled its Wednesday matinee, “Tina” cancelled two shows on Wednesday and “Hamilton” canceled its evening performance. “Ain’t Too Proud” canceled its Dec. 14 performance and “Freestyle Love Supreme” canceled performances its Dec. 11 and Dec. 14 performances.“Mrs. Doubtfire,” has been dark since Dec. 12, but intends to resume performances on Dec. 16.
Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity, said the cancellation of performances means that Broadway producers are taking these cases seriously and acting appropriately.
“The fact that performances are being paused shows that the producers and the unions are staying vigilant,” McColl said in a statement. “That’s what the safety protocols are there to be in place for, and this shows that they’re working. Dr. David Michaels continues to work with us, and he is in constant touch with the epidemiologist for the Broadway League. We are all continuing to monitor the science, and making the decisions that will best protect workers.”
Breakthrough cases have also been detected Off-Broadway, leading to the cancellation of “Little Shop of Horrors,” as well as within the Alvin Ailey dance company
The touring company of “Ain’t Too Proud” postponed its Kennedy Center engagement until Dec. 28 after discovering positive COVID-19 results.
The current case rate puts the New York City metropolitan area at a “very high risk” level, according to the COVID Act Now tracker, which is used by the Broadway League to help set testing cadences. At that level, the League recommends that productions test their companies at least three times a week — though several productions have been testing more frequently.
“An increasing number of Broadway shows have had to cancel performances due to COVID cases. Genomic sequencing identified many of those cases as the Omicron variant of concern,” said Blythe Adamson, an epidemiologist who works with more than a dozen Broadway shows. “To reduce the risk of transmission, the key tools we must use in combination remain the same: vaccination, ventilation, masking, and testing. Scientists are learning quickly about the differences between Omicron and Delta to inform the safest protocols possible for theaters.”