The Metropolitan Opera announced on Wednesday that all eligible adult employees and audience members will be required to take Covid booster shots to enter the opera house, making security measures stricter than those on Broadway or other venues.
The Met is the city’s first major performing arts organization to announce a booster-shot mandate that applies to both the public and staff; the new rule goes into effect on January 17. The policy was heralded as concerns over the increasing caseload and spread of the Omicron variant are increasing: the city’s average daily number of coronavirus cases has more than doubled in the past two weeks.
“We feel we should set an example,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in an interview. “Hopefully we will also have an influence on other performing arts companies. I think it’s only a matter of time – everyone is going to do this.”
It’s not the first time that performing arts organizations, eager to reassure the public that they can safely enter theaters, have imposed virus prevention measures beyond government mandates. When Broadway theaters announced in the summer that they would require the public to be vaccinated and masked, it took several days for Mayor Bill de Blasio to announce that New York City would impose a vaccine mandate for a variety of indoor spaces, including performing arts venues.
Since the Met reopened after losing more than a full season to the pandemic, employees and customers had to be fully vaccinated to enter the opera house. But Gelb said it had become “clear” to him that even stronger safeguards were now needed.
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“It is of the utmost importance that spectators and staff feel safe when entering the building”, he said. “For me there is no doubt – this is the right move.”
Since November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended booster shots — either six months after people receive a second Pfizer or Moderna shot, or two months after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
When the Met’s new rules go into effect on January 17, people who are eligible for booster shots will have to give them access to the Opera House. (There is a short grace period: people may enter without a boost if the performance falls within two weeks of qualifying for boosters. People who are not yet eligible for their booster shots may still enter.) opera house , people will be required to wear face masks except when eating or drinking in the restricted areas where it is allowed.
Met officials said they discussed their new policies with leaders of the various unions representing the workers ahead of Wednesday’s announcement and described the union’s response to the rules as “very positive”.
Len Egert, the national director of the American Guild of Musical Artists, said union officials determined that at the Met, “boosters are warranted,” and then negotiated to ensure members’ rights were protected.
Adam Krauthamer, the chairman of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, said his union “applauds the Met’s plan to make vaccine boosters mandatory” and called the move “a necessary step forward to ensure public safety and NYC as a beacon of live performance.”
It was not immediately clear whether other art institutions would follow the Met in tightening their Covid rules. Gelb said he informed the leaders of Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center that the Met would be adding a booster-shot mandate soon.
The announcement that the Met would introduce stricter Covid protocols came a day after a performance of the ballet “Don Quixote” was canceled at the Opéra Bastille in Paris because officials said someone at the company tested positive for the virus. Several Broadway shows have recently had to cancel performances due to positive coronavirus tests among the cast and crew. And in the National Football League, 37 players tested positive on Monday, the highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.
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Gelb said he believed the Met was the first performing arts institution to implement a booster mandate, but noted that some colleges and universities appear to have already taken that step. He said he expected the Met employees and the public to support the new rule, and said he suspects most of them have already had their booster shots if they qualify. “I think this will at least be a relief,” he said.
The Met said in a press release that it has presented 59 performances of nine different operas to a combined audience of about 160,000 people since reopening in late September.
It has not canceled any performances yet due to the virus.
“With so many people coming in and out of the building, we need to make sure everyone is as safe as possible,” Gelb said. “Everyone in the company wants to feel safe and healthy.”