On the heels of the CDC’s announcement that New York and New Jersey are detecting the omicron variant at four times the national rate, the Metropolitan Opera informed patrons Wednesday that it will soon impose a booster-shot mandate. It’s the first major performing arts venue in New York City to require proof from audiences that they’ve gotten a third vaccination.
The mandate takes effect on January 17, and there are a few fine-print asterisks: only people eligible for a booster are required to have it, and there’s a grace period of two weeks past the first day of eligibility for people to get the booster. The Met Opera’s new policy was made public a day after NYU announced a similar booster mandate for students, faculty, and staff that will take effect in mid-January ahead of the spring semester.
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In a press release, the opera’s general manager Peter Gelb said, “Our population is far larger than any other not-for-profit performing arts organization in the country, which is why we have to be in the vanguard of health and safety.” This week, a flurry of Broadway shows experienced cancellations as cast and crew members tested positive, and a number of corporate events were called off across the city citing concerns around the rapid spread of the virus. The Met’s mandate represents an attempt to preempt such cancellations, which are both disappointing to ticket holders and performers and enormously costly. No doubt, the cancellation of an entire season and then some, accompanied by a $25 million drop in revenue in its last fiscal year (buoyed only by loyal donors), is a nightmare that still has yet to recede from memory. The opera is also frequented by older audiences — no question a factor in the company’s heightened vigilance.
Although similar institutions like Carnegie Hall, the New York Philharmonic, and Lincoln Center — as well as all major museums in New York City — have yet to unveil booster mandates, the Met Opera’s announcement puts pressure on them to follow in its footsteps. “Everyone is going to be doing this,” Gelb said to the New York Times.