New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has announced a one-month ban on gatherings of 500 people or more in New York City to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, turning the lights out on Broadway.
On Thursday, Cuomo said in a press conference that gatherings of more than 500 people will be prohibited, with the exception of schools, hospitals, mass transit and nursing homes.
The ban goes into effect at 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, March 12, and performances are not slated to start back up again until April 13.
The announcement also indicated that facilities with occupancy for up to 500 people will have their allowed seated capacity be reduced by 50%.
“We’re going to take very dramatic actions,” Cuomo said at the conference.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday and has killed more than 4,000 people worldwide.
Cuomo’s announcement of the ban comes on the heels of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio telling CNN earlier on Thursday that he didn’t “want to see Broadway go dark if we can avoid it.”
“I want to see if we can strike some kind of balance,” he said. “What we’re trying to figure out: Is there a way to reduce the capacity, reduce the number of people? If we cannot strike that balance, of course, we can go to closure.”
Earlier this week, a Broadway usher who worked two shows tested positive for coronavirus and is now quarantined. The theater operators acknowledged the usher’s diagnosis in a statement and said their theaters would take “every step necessary to ensure the safety of our audiences, performers, crew, and building staff.”
Representatives for the theaters where the usher worked told BuzzFeed News that the venues have been deep-cleaned and that they have “urged all high-risk audience members to ‘monitor their health diligently.’”
Despite this, Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology at Columbia University, told BuzzFeed that the measures were not sufficient enough to keep people healthy.
“There is no question that Broadway shows should be closed,” Racaniello said. “Any large gatherings of people, especially here in NYC where we know the virus is circulating, need to stop.”
Joining Broadway, other New York City institutions that have closed because of the pandemic include the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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