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D.C. theaters opt to extend mask mandates as cases rise across Northeast

A prominent D.C. theatre coalition announced its mask mandate will stay in effect at least through the end of July.

Published: May 19, 2022 2:40pm

Updated: May 19, 2022 3:47pm

Theaters in Washington, D.C. will extend a mask and vaccine requirement for patrons through at least the end of July. 

The announcement arrives as case numbers of the virus in the Northeast and Midwest have begun to rise and some government officials have urged those in charge to consider reinstating indoor mask mandates.

Among the theaters in the nation's capital extending the mandate are the roughly 30 in Theatre Washington – an alliance of about 30 theaters in the District including Signature Theater, the Shakespeare Theatre Company and Ford's Theater, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865. 

"What we’ve been doing is checking in regularly with each other, looking at the numbers, trying to take into consideration performers, staff, and audiences, and determine if we’re going to extend it and under what terms," Theatre Washington CEO Any Austin recently said. "We find it important to work together to be a collaborative community, so we want to make sure that we’re relaying to audiences, people who want to return to the theater, what the requirements are likely to be."

Also this week, New York City entered the "high" COVID-19 alert, which resulted in health officials strongly recommending wearing masks in public indoor settings.

In March, Theatre Washington conducted a survey of about 2,000 regular theatre-goers that found a majority said they were opposed to doing away with the mask mandate, and about three-quarters said they felt "very negatively" about dropping the vaccine requirement.

Despite the decision of the coalition – to which no one theatre is beholden, but most will abide by – no official COVID-19 restrictions have officially been brought back into effect in the capital. 

Just days ago, the Kennedy Center, also member of Theatre Washington, dropped its vaccine requirement. Its indoor mask mandate remains in place.

Non-member venues have also done away with a number of COVID restrictions, including music venues like The Anthem and 9:30 Club, which each eliminated their vaccine and mask requirements recently, unless a performer requests that either mandate be reinstalled for the show. 

It is unclear what other COVID-19 restrictions may or may not take hold once again as case numbers rise across the nation.

The most recent wave of the omicron variant in December and January led to high case numbers of a more contagious and more mild version of the virus. New cases being reported do not appear to be any more serious than the latest iteration of the fast moving virus.

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