Broadway theaters in New York will relinquish coronavirus mask mandates to audience members from July 1, the commercial trade group Broadway League announced on Tuesday.
“The owners and operators of all 41 Broadway theaters in New York City will hold masking mandates in place at all Broadway theaters until June 30, and will adopt a ‘mask-optional’ policy for July,” the announcement reads. “Audience members are still encouraged to wear masks in theaters.”
The Broadway League has said it will reconsider masking protocols on a monthly basis and announce the policy for August in mid-July.
“It’s not an easy decision – there are more people who want masks off than on, but many still want them on – and we encourage people who have any concerns about wearing their masks,” says Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, according to The New York Times.
The requirement is eased after several Broadway stars tested positive for COVID this month.
Beanie Feldstein, the protagonist of “Funny Girl” on Broadway, announced that she picked up COVID on June 7 in an Instagram post. Feldstein was replaced by Julie Benko during her recovery, according to a tweet posted on the program’s account.
Hugh Jackman, the star of “The Music Man,” announced that he tested positive for the virus on June 13, less than a day after performing at the Tony Awards. Jackman said Max Clayton would fill in for him.
The relaxed mask mandate at Broadway theaters was announced on the same day that New York City downgraded its COVID-19 alert level from high to medium, citing a decline in cases and hospitalizations. COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the city were now at 240.4 and hospitalizations per 100,000 dropped to 9.8, Mayor Eric Adams and Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said in a joint statement.
“We are grateful to New Yorkers for their continued attention and vigilance as we made our way to the other side of this wave,” the two officials said.
The medium COVID alert level contains recommendations for people to be vaccinated and strengthened, and to wear a mask in public indoor spaces where the vaccination status of other people is unknown. Below the previous high alert level, New Yorkers were told to wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Adams and Vasan said health officials learned a lot about the virus during this year’s boom and stressed the importance of existing public health safety measures, including masks.
“Testing, vaccinations, treatments and masking were essential tools to keep people alive and out of the hospital,” they said. “But we know there is no better defense against this virus than vaccination, and therefore we are glad that young children are now eligible for the protection they deserve, and can not wait to start under 5 vaccination.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday recommended COVID vaccinations for children under the age of 5. The first vaccinations for this age group in New York City will begin on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, the mayor of New York reversed the mask requirements for children under the age of 5 “in all early childhood settings.”