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Many Broadway theaters will drop vaccine checks, but not mask mandate
Customers line up for Broadway tickets at the Times Square TKTS stands, in Manhattan, March 30, 2022. Many of Broadway’s theater owners have decided to stop checking the vaccination status of ticket holders after April 30, but all will continue to require that audience members wear masks inside theaters through at least May 31. Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times.

by Michael Paulson

NEW YORK, NY.- Most Broadway theaters have decided to stop checking the vaccination status of ticket holders after April 30, but all will continue to require that audience members wear masks inside theaters through at least May 31.

The Broadway League, a trade association, announced the change Friday. The decision was made by the owners and operators of Broadway’s 41 theaters, who had initially decided to require vaccines and masks in the summer, before the city imposed its own mandates. The theater owners — six commercial and four nonprofit entities — have been periodically reconsidering the protocols ever since.

They announced the decision as many governments and businesses nationwide have been loosening restrictions but with cases rising in New York City and the virus forcing several Broadway shows to cancel performances in recent days.

“Since resuming performances last fall, over 5 million attendees have seen a Broadway show, and the safety and security of our cast, crew and audience has been our top priority,” Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said in a statement. “Our intention is that by maintaining strict audience masking through at least the month of May, we will continue that track record of safety for all. And of course, we urge everyone to get vaccinated.”

Until now, the theaters had acted together on the protocols, saying they were concerned that varied policies could confuse theatergoers. But they no longer have a consensus: The biggest commercial landlords on Broadway opted to drop the vaccine mandate, while two nonprofits said they would keep it, and another said it was still deciding what to do.

Broadway has decided to preserve the masking requirement, given the size of its audiences (seating capacity ranges from 585 at the Hayes, where “Take Me Out” is playing, to 1,926 at the Gershwin, which houses “Wicked”); the length of its shows (the longest, at 3 1/2 hours, is “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”); the tightly packed seats (many of the theaters were built a century ago); and the makeup of its audience (traditionally, 65% tourists).

The protocol changes announced Friday affect only patrons; vaccination remains a condition of employment for Broadway actors and other theater workers.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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