Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
Broadway is back, with masks.
Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
Broadway is back, with masks.
This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.
Health officials are advising the White House to scale back its vaccine booster plan.
The U.S. economy only added 235,000 jobs last month, a sharp drop from the gains recorded earlier in the summer and an indication that Delta has hampered hiring.
President Biden plans to invest $2.7 billion to ramp up U.S. production of critical vaccine components, money that may not actually help vaccinate the world.
Fans flocked to “Hadestown,” with Andre De Shields, in the silver suit.Credit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times
Broadway musicals return
On Thursday night, the first two musicals returned to Broadway since the theater district went dark on March 12, 2020. Devoted fans — vaccine cards in hand and masks over their noses — filled the seats as “Hadestown” and “Waitress” reopened.
Let’s start with the most basic question: What was the energy like? How did it feel?
At each show, you could feel the audience’s intense gratitude just to be there, and all this pent-up enthusiasm.
There was applause for the preshow announcements. There was applause each time a character first stepped forward onstage.
There were nine standing ovations at “Waitress.” And at “Hadestown,” the crowd lingered on the street afterward, as the cast, creative team and band emerged onto the theater’s balconies to play music and sing.
I’m used to seeing a lot of theater for my job, but last night everything felt heightened because of so much time away. I felt very aware of what a privilege it is to be able to watch these artists tell stories.
What are the safety precautions?
Everyone must be vaccinated — all employees, including actors, and all patrons (there is a testing alternative for religious and medical reasons and for children). Masks are mandatory too, for everyone except onstage performers.
There is no social distancing — theaters are at full capacity. There are new or upgraded ventilation systems everywhere. And there is a lot of hand sanitizer.
At “Waitress,” a fully vaccinated cast member did test positive before last night’s performance. She was replaced by an understudy; the cast was tested (as it is regularly) and the show went on. It was the first example we’ve seen of how shows will manage through a time when it seems inevitable that there will be occasional infections.
How is the Delta variant complicating the return?
The restart decisions were made before Delta was a major factor — it takes a long time to put a Broadway show back together — and producers have decided to stick to the announced schedule, but with more safety precautions.
The producers I’ve spoken to think the pandemic is not going to fully end anytime soon, but that it’s important — for the sake of the workers, and the city, to find a way to restart the city’s cultural life, so they’re moving forward. I do think Delta is affecting consumer behavior — although some shows are selling strongly, others are soft — as some fans are putting off ticket-buying decisions until they feel more comfortable.
A vaccinated, masked audience celebrates the return of musicalsCredit…Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times
Five shows — the musicals “Hamilton,” “The Lion King,” “Wicked” and “Chicago,” as well as a play called “Lackawanna Blues,” — are scheduled to start on Sept. 14. Many other shows are planning to start performances throughout the fall. And two shows started earlier — Bruce Springsteen opened a limited run of his one-man show in late June, and “Pass Over,” a play, began performances on Aug. 4.
Why does this reopening of Broadway matter? A thriving cultural scene is one of New York’s great attributes.
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But, also, Broadway employs a lot of people. It has a very significant spinoff economic effect supporting hotels and restaurants and taxis and all kinds of businesses patronized by theatergoers, plus there are all the industries that support theater, like costume makers and set builders and marketing firms.
Probably as important as the economic impact is the symbolic impact. As long as Broadway has been closed, that’s sent a message that New York is still ailing.
The resumption of the performing arts is not without risk, obviously, because the pandemic is not over, and the Delta variant is complicating the nation’s rebound. But there’s a sense that it’s time to try.
An unusual nutcracker season
For dance companies, and for the Christmas season in general, the “Nutcracker” ballet is kind of like the Super Bowl. Usually, children younger than 12 fill out the ranks of the ballet’s wide ensemble cast, playing mice, revelers and candy canes. Often, they perform in the starring roles of Marie and the Prince.
But the surge of the Delta variant has prompted many dance companies to retool the holiday favorite, as so many would-be dancers and audience members are not yet eligible for the vaccine. (In the U.S., it’s 48 million children.)
At New York City Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, for instance, there will be no performers under 12. Several companies will allow children under 12 in the audience, though they will have to provide negative virus test results.
Understand Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.
Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies have been increasingly mandating vaccines for employees. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for education staff. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots. Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement does not begin until Sept. 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
“This is really the only way we can get this production on safely,” said Jonathan Stafford, the artistic director of New York City Ballet.
The stakes this year are especially high. The show will be a test of whether dance companies, which halted indoor performances for much of the pandemic, can operate safely.
After enduring steep losses, many companies are hoping for a comeback with “Nutcracker,” a financial lifeline in normal times. New York City Ballet, for example, typically receives about $15 million in ticket revenue from the show, almost half its yearly total.
And no matter what, the show must go on.
“I want to bring the traditions back and at the same time keep people safe,” said Shelly Power, executive director of the Philadelphia Ballet.
What else we’re following
Children around the world returned to classrooms, often with some restrictions.
Offices are unlikely to be as full after the pandemic as they were before, and service businesses and their employees will have to adapt.
Tyson Foods said it will provide 20 hours of paid sick time a year to fully vaccinated employees to enhance benefits for workers willing to get vaccinated.
The W.H.O. has added a new variant, “Mu,” to the list of “variants of interest” because of preliminary evidence it can evade antibodies.
The E.U. reached an agreement with AstraZeneca in a legal battle over delays in vaccine deliveries.
Five of the seven members of the K-pop group Enhypen have tested positive.
What you’re doing
I am a nurse and my husband is deployed to Iraq. Our boys and I go on weekly Sunday bike rides in our local trails. We don’t cook on Fridays and I have a margarita every Saturday. These little things get me through. I’ve started praying again but I am not religious. I pray for our nurses and doctors on the front lines that deal with this everyday, God give them strength. I pray for our troops that they come home safe, God protect them. And I pray for our kids, may they be better than us one day, God empower them. — Yuli, North Carolina
Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
The Coronavirus briefing will be taking Monday off for Labor Day. Have a safe weekend and see you on Tuesday.