Over the next four weeks, New York City plans to set up COVID-19 vaccination sites specifically for Broadway theater workers, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at a press briefing on Thursday, adding that he hopes to reach off-Broadway workers as well.
"We have to get the theater community ready for the fall," de Blasio said. "By the time we get there, the world will be better."
A mobile vaccination unit will also be deployed to accelerate the process, the mayor said.
Broadway shut down in mid-March last year. At the time there were 31 musicals and plays open, including several that were set to open that week. In February, a new report from the New York State Comptroller's office showed the devastating toll that the shutdown had on Broadway, as well as the entire New York City creative sector.
The mayor also announced today that the city plans to open COVID testing sites near theaters, and will set more detailed guidelines for handling crowds before and after shows. But he noted that actually opening Broadway theaters with these proposed safety measures still requires the approval of New York state.
"We will propose our own ideas to the state, but we need them to take action," he said. "To put together a Broadway show is a huge endeavor, so they need guidance now."
Under current state guidelines, theaters are now technically allowed to be open at 33% capacity, with a maximum of 150 people who've presented negative COVID-19 tests. But Broadway producers don't expect to return until sometime after Labor Day.
"Even if we got to 33%, we could not keep the show open for even a week," Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League, told Gothamist. "The financial model for Broadway does not allow it."
To allow shows to at least prepare for reopening — a process that includes everything from rehearsals and costume fittings to marketing campaigns and ticket promotions — access to vaccines is seen as a crucial first step.
"New York is on its way back, but it will not completely arrive until Broadway and all theatre across the city returns," said Tony-winning actor Andre DeSheilds. "We want everyone to experience the ecstasy of a Broadway show."
Additional reporting from Cate Hynes