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The evolving threat of the COVID-19 virus has prompted local arts institutions to adjust their policies for ticket holders. A collective decision was announced this morning. The Irvine Barclay Theatre, Musco Center for the Arts, Pacific Chorale, Pacific Symphony, Philharmonic Society of Orange County, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Soka Performing Arts Center and South Coast Repertory will require ticket holders to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear a mask at all times while inside their venues.

“The health, safety and well-being of our audiences, artists, crew and staff is paramount,” SCFTA president Casey Reitz said in a prepared statement. “Working together to reduce any type of exposure to COVID-19 can ensure a safe environment for everyone. Our staff has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure ticket holders have peace of mind enjoying the show, knowing that you are in the safest space possible.”

“The most effective way to reduce transmission and remain healthy is by following procedures, including vaccination, and wearing a mask,” said Jerry Mandel, president of the Irvine Barclay Theatre. “This policy will offer clarity and reassure all ticket holders that we take their safety seriously.”

The announcement, while a prudent reaction to the Delta variant’s increased infectiousness, will nevertheless come as a disappointment to local arts patrons and leaders. Many institutions had designed their 2021-22 seasons on the assumption that the pandemic was steadily fading with the advent of vaccines. The Philharmonic Society, for example, programmed many of its big-draw artists for the latter half of the season in anticipation of more relaxed rules for public gathering and social distancing by early 2022.

In addition to the protocols agreed on collectively, many local art institutions have come up with their own policies that differ slightly from one another. And some performing arts groups have already taken other precautions to minimize crowd size and transmissibility of the virus.

South Coast Repertory, which customarily operates its two main venues simultaneously, has cut back to only one venue in use at any given time: “The 2021/22 season has been scheduled so that during most weeks only one performance is running at a time. This will allow for less congestion and more space in the lobby, restrooms and (outside on the plaza) before and after the performances and during intermissions,” SCR said in a statement. In addition, food and beverages may be consumed outside only.

The Segerstrom Center spelled out its new protocols in a statement released this morning.

“The updated COVID-19 policy requires ticket holders to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to attend all indoor performances and events at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. ‘Fully vaccinated’ means the performance is at least 14 days after the final vaccine dose. To enter the theater, ticket holders must bring proof of vaccination, either a physical vaccination card, a picture of their vaccination card, or a digital vaccination record.” The Center’s new policy also applies to all artists performing there.

Children under the age of 12 and unvaccinated people must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within three days prior to the performance they’re attending at SCFTA.

The current protocols “will be re-assessed on an ongoing basis and may adjust as public health circumstances evolve,” according to a statement from Arts Orange County, which helped organize the new protocols in partnership with major arts organizations. “These protocols are based on the most current information available for the live entertainment venue industry, as well as other pertinent industries.”

“It is clear what protocols are required in order for us to enjoy live performances safely once again,” said Paula Tomei, managing director of South Coast Repertory. “And by establishing these requirements now, we ensure that we do not delay the return of the performing arts any longer.”

Paul Hodgins is the founding editor of Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. He can be reached at phodgins@voiceofoc.org.

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