Currently, Washington state and King County have not put any restrictions in place regarding group gatherings.
Iran, which has nearly 1,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, has banned all gatherings in spaces like cafes, movie theaters, clubs, and other public areas from Feb. 27 until March 7. Switzerland is banning events that will have more than 1,000. France is banning events that draw over 5,000.
But King County Public Health is recommending that people, especially people over the age of 60, avoid crowded settings. "When you go into a crowded situation with close contact it’s not possible to know if there are others with mild illness," the county says. "To increase your chances of staying healthy, avoid crowded settings if possible, especially if you are over 60, or have other chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or a weakened immune system."
That's the same messaging that we're hearing from the Washington Department of Health. As Rich Smith wrote in an earlier report, the DOH is "'encouraging' elderly people and people with underlying chronic health issues (i.e cardiovascular disease, lung respiratory illnesses, cancer) to 'think about limiting their activity in large crowds.'"
Emerald City Comic Con, which draws nearly 100,000 people annually, is slated to run from March 12-15 at the Washington State Convention Center. Despite widespread coronavirus worry and a reddit thread asking people to urge ECCC to reschedule, the show will go on.
According to a statement on ECCC's website, "as ECCC approaches we will be constantly reviewing our health protection activities, public health messaging, hygiene and medical control measures with the aim of strengthening our COVID-19 response further in line with up to date public health advice and guidance, including that of the CDC.”
U.S. EPA’s Emerging Pathogen Policy regarding cleaning disinfectants effective against the COVID-19 virus. We are working closely with the WSCC and our other venue partners and aligning with local, state and federal public health guidelines and agencies. (3/7)
— Emerald City Comic Con (@emeraldcitycon) March 1, 2020
Back in the swine flu panic of 2009, nearly 100 attendees of Penny Arcade Expo, a video game convention, were infected with H1N1, or swine flu, in the wake of the event. The outbreak was dubbed H1Nerd.
Other culture venues are also planning to remain open. A spokesperson for 5th Avenue Theatre said that "as of this moment there are no plans to cancel any performances of Sister Act at The 5th." They are treating this like regular flu season and encouraging any theatergoers who feel sick to stay home.
The Theater Communications Group will be hosting a webinar on coronavirus preparedness this coming Friday but for now, they are telling people to wash their hands and stay home if they're sick.
Seattle Opera is in the same boat. A spokesperson has said that the opera has "no plans to cancel any performances. We take our direction from the Seattle Center, city, and county and are receiving their status updates."
The Pacific Science Center, which is also a part of Seattle Center, will continue normal operations and programming, a spokesperson said. "If a case of COVID-19 (coronavirus) is found in Pacific Science Center," the spokesperson wrote in an email, "at our Mercer Slough location, or in a location that we serve in the community, we will follow direction from public health officials which might include closing our facilities and canceling all scheduled activities until further notice."
The Seattle Theater Group, which runs theaters likes the Paramount, the Moore, the Neptune, and more, "is closely monitoring the recent outbreak of a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and considers the health and well-being of its patrons, artists and employees with the highest priority," a spokesperson said. "As a precautionary measure, heightened daily disinfection practices have been implemented for all areas of public and private spaces in our theatres." All performances will continue as originally scheduled.
The Seattle Symphony is also not planning on cancelling any performances, but they are willing to change tickets for any patrons who may feel "unwell or uncomfortable" about attending shows. They add: "If we receive the recommendations to cancel events should the situation escalate, we will prioritize the health of our employees, partners and friends in the audience by implementing and communicating appropriate changes that ensure a safe environment."
This post will be updated as we learn more.