Coronavirus Update: March 12, 2020

UPDATE: This Advocacy Alert has been updated at 3:00pm on March 12, 2020.

Dear Members,

Things are moving ahead rapidly and I wanted to alert you to developments on our front. We will send you a separate update regarding the Governor's announcement to limit mass gatherings to 500 people, once the details have become clear.

Please know that A.R.T./New York is working with Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and the League of Independent Theater (LIT) on advocacy and communications to send a clear, universal messaging to our members.

  1. As of 9:30am on March 12, 2020, 62 people have tested positively for the Coronavirus in NYC. The World Health Organization this morning declared COVID-19 a Global Pandemic.

  2. Given our concern for our members, our staff, and the students who planned to attend, A.R.T./New York is postponing Saturday’s Intern Fair. Additional communication will be coming tomorrow morning.

  3. We are also distributing a survey to quantify our members’ financial losses in revenue and increased expenditures as a result of COVID-19. This will help us as we advocate for emergency relief funding for the field. This will also come to you in Member News tomorrow.

  4. Beginning today, the A.R.T./New York Executive, Programs, and Development Staff are working virtually from their homes. As of now, our three spaces, Spaces@520, South Oxford Space, and the A.R.T./New York Theatres, will remain open. All workshops and roundtables will be offered online.

For those of you currently in production, I understand that choosing to cancel a performance is a costly decision. Whether you have a limited run with a celebrity cast, a paid subscription audience coming to see an upcoming young writer, or the premiere of a piece your company has been developing for years, cancelling one or several performances is difficult and costly.  

We will be working with our Government Relations consultants to request that Governor Cuomo intervene with the insurance companies on our behalf with respect to Business Interruption Coverage. Right now, this coverage does not cover situations like the COVID-19 Virus. 

Acting Commissioner Kathleen Hughes wrote this morning:

"The City has not asked for organizations to cancel events. As each organization has concerns specific to your operations and activities, your judgment should prevail.  Should you reach a point where you feel you require City guidance, do request it. The City is also developing scenarios and plans so that we are not caught unawares should the situation become more critical. Of course, as things evolve we will be back in touch. Meanwhile, please monitor the Health Department’s website and social media channels.We encourage you to continue to pay close attention to the announcements and advice of these public health experts."  

To read the Acting Commissioner’s full alert, click here.

This morning, I was on an Emergency Preparedness Call with CultureAID. I asked the representative from the Lawyers Alliance the following questions. Since each case has its unique aspects, these questions and answers are just guidelines...your own lawyers can provide the best advice.

If an audience member visits our theatres and is diagnosed with COVID-19, are we liable?
The audience member would have to prove that they contracted the virus at your theatre, not on the subway, in a car or bus, at their home, or at a restaurant. This would be very hard to prove. Your case will be even stronger if your theatre has been following CDC guidelines with respect to cleaning.

May I ask an audience member to leave the theatre if they appear to be sick? 
It is advisable to have language (distributed with tickets and signage in the lobby) that informs the audience that if they feel sick, they should exchange their tickets, and if they attend a performance, management reserves the right to ask them to leave.

Can we appeal to insurance companies that refuse to cover our costs due to the virus? 
Lawyer's Alliance has an attorney with insurance experience volunteering for them. They offered to read one contract and provide overall guidance. We are sending them our policy for the A.R.T./New York Theatres and will respond once we hear from them.  

While the A.R.T./New York staff will be working remotely, please know that I am monitoring my email and will respond as always. Our programs staff will be implementing all programming in a virtual space, and a small crew will be administering office work on an as-needed basis.

These truly are difficult, challenging times. I want to thank you for continuing to inspire me. You make this city the arts capital of the world. We will all get through this as we have in the past.

Ginny Louloudes
Executive Director

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