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NEWS: Live Performance COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements Spreading

A transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots. Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and generated by Hannah A. Bullock and Azaibi Tamin.

Last winter, Israel started requiring that all patrons of live, in-person performances be vaccinated against COVID-19. Half a year later, similar requirements are starting to spread across the United States as presenters, venues, and patrons alike view resurgent COVID-19 infection counts with increasing wariness.

On Thursday, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC jointly announced that they were requiring everyone associated with their performances – audiences, artists, staff, ushers, and volunteers – to show proof of being fully vaccinated in order to enter their doors. While certainly some of the highest-profile venues to do so, their announcement came 10 days after the Twin Cities-based First Avenue, which announced a similar policy on August 2.

COVID-19 testing and vaccination policies across the country are highly inconsistent, in part because of the stubborn refusal of politicians to pursue a national vaccination card (or app) like those used in many foreign countries. (Many European countries have national systems for showing vaccination statuses that precede the current pandemic, and U.S. travelers to high-risk destinations have long-used cartes jaunes (yellow cards) to show vaccination against Yellow Fever and other infectious diseases.)

A further complication comes from the current lack of approval for vaccinating children 12 and under against COVID-19. Thus, First Avenue’s policy allows unvaccinated persons of all ages to show a recent negative test for entry into First Avenue, 7th St Entry, Turf Club, Fine Line, The Fitzgerald Theater, and the Palace Theatre. At the Kennedy Center and Ford’s Theatre, however, no testing loophole exists. Instead, patrons must show a government-issued photo ID and proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to attend all indoor performances and events.

Masking requirements – still a contentious issue in much of the country – are also highly irregular. The Minnesota Vikings, for example, recommend but do not require mask wearing at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Kennedy Center and Ford’s Theatre require that audiences wear masks at all times, except when eating and drinking in designated areas. At present, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul – scheduled to reopen in September – strongly recommends but does not require that patrons wear masks. Its staff, however, will wear masks at all times during performances.

Due to evolving public health conditions, Minnesotans are strongly recommended to check with each venue about masking policies and be prepared to show proof of vaccination status for entry. Digital pictures of vaccine cards showing a full COVID-19 vaccination (2 doses for Pfizer or Moderna, 1 dose for Johnson & Johnson) are generally accepted as proof.

Twin Cities Arts Reader