If you're clamoring to see any type of live performance soon, you're going to have mask up and double check you have a picture of your vaccine cards bookmarked on your phone.
Today, the governor announced the state would reimplement a mask mandate for indoor public spaces effective August 23. The mandate applies to everyone regardless of vaccination status, though people who work in indoor office spaces "not easily accessible to the public," those who work indoors alone, and vaccinated people meeting for small gatherings will be exempt, according to the Seattle Times.
At the same press conference, Inslee also announced the "strictest" vaccine mandate for teachers in the country, requiring coaches, bus drivers, volunteers, and other school workers in public, private, and charter schools to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment.
These announcements come as coronavirus cases spike considerably—especially among the unvaccinated—across the state due to the Delta variant. Washington hospitals are reaching maximum capacity as labor shortages place pressure on the state's already strained health care system.
Shortly before the announcement, a slew of performing arts organizations and venues in Seattle coordinated joint announcements of their own new COVID policies to keep audiences, performers, and staff safe during the upcoming 2021-2022 season. Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, The 5th Avenue Theatre, ACT, Seattle Rep, Village Theatre, Seattle Public Theater, and Taproot Theatre Company are all requiring proof of vaccination (or a negative COVID test within 48-hours of the event) and masks as requirements of entry. Masks may only be removed when actively eating or drinking.
"The organization recently distributed a survey to more than 80,000 guests to determine what would make audiences most comfortable with a return to live performances," Seattle Symphony wrote in a press release about their updated policies. "Participants’ responses demonstrated an overwhelming preference for a fully masked and fully vaccinated audience, which allows for the safe removal of socially distanced seating, thus increasing access to the magic of a live orchestra."
In addition to requiring masks and proof of vaccination for staff, performers, and audience members, many of these venues, such as Seattle Public Theater, Seattle Symphony, and Pacific Northwest Ballet say they have also implemented rigorous cleaning regimens and have added high-quality air filters to increase ventilation in their spaces. Most expect these entry requirements to remain place for the entire season and will review them as guidelines and recommendations change.
On the less frou-frou side of the arts world here in the city, Neumos complex will also be following suit, requiring masks as a condition of entry. The live music venue on Capitol Hill was among the first venues in the city to require proof of vaccination or a recent COVID test as a condition of entry during the Grand Reopening in late June.
"We don't expect much additional negative impact beyond what we have already seen in August," wrote Neumos marketing and ticketing director Sarah Pepper in a recent email. "People seem to be routinely wearing masks again as it is."
I've written to several other venues for comment and will update this story once I hear back.