The Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers across the country, announced Tuesday that all 41 theaters on Broadway will go “mask optional” for the month of July.
In a statement, Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, said audience members were still encouraged to wear masks, but would not be required to beginning July 1. The policy will be re-evaluated on a monthly basis going forward.
“Millions of people enjoyed the unique magic of Broadway by watching the 75th Tony Award Ceremony recently,” St. Martin said. “Millions more have experienced Broadway LIVE in theaters in New York City and throughout the US, since we reopened last fall. We’re thrilled to welcome even more of our passionate fans back to Broadway in the exciting 22-23 season that has just begun.”
The Broadway League added that it expects to update people on masking rules for August by mid-July.
The Broadway League announcement did not specify a reason for the policy change. It comes as Mayor Eric Adams and Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan also announced Tuesday that the city’s COVID-19 risk alert had been downgraded from “high” to “medium.” Under the new designation, however, the department offers this guidance on mask-wearing: “Wear a face mask in public indoor settings where vaccine status is not known.”
The number of new cases per 100,000 people is “stable” at 240.4, according to the city.
There are currently 27 shows running at the 41 theaters on Broadway.
Back at the start of May, most Broadway theaters dropped their vaccine requirements for audience members.
Since Broadway reopened in the fall of 2021, multiple productions have been affected by COVID outbreaks, with several individual performances canceled and some shows permanently closed.
This month alone, high profile stars including The Music Man’s Hugh Jackman and Funny Girl’s Beanie Feldstein have missed shows because they tested positive for COVID-19.
As Gothamist reported this month, hundreds of Broadway’s custodians, elevator operators and restroom attendants, who have not received pay increases despite new job demands during COVID, are currently engaged in a contract battle with theater owners.
Martha Aristizabal, who has worked for the Shubert company for over 12 years, currently works at the Ambassador Theater as a custodian in the morning and manager’s assistant during shows in the evenings. She said that she and other workers have lived in “constant fear” of getting sick because of their proximity to so many people.
“We go into work everyday and see people getting sick: not just in the outside world, also our coworkers,” she said in Spanish via a translator.
She added that one of the only things that gave her some comfort was the fact that theaters were strict about people wearing masks during performances. Part of her responsibilities has been making sure people keep their masks on.
“Right now the job is a lot harder because of the amount of disinfecting and cleaning we have to do because of COVID protocols,” she said. “And it’s also incredibly challenging to make sure that audience members are wearing their masks properly and continually throughout the show.”