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Public Theater sets COVID-19 testing requirement for audience members

The Public Theater is now requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test for audience members to attend performances.  The new policy, which took effect Dec.

'The Visitor' is one of the productions currently playing the Public Theater. (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The Public Theater is now requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test for audience members to attend performances.

The new policy, which took effect Dec. 17, requires audience members to present a negative rapid test taken the day of the performance or a PCR test taken within 72 hours of the show, in addition to full proof of vaccination. The Off-Broadway theater is one of the first major theaters to implement additional safety measures for audience members as COVID-19 cases rise in the city and productions are forced to cancel performances.

The Public Theater’s policy is currently in place through Jan. 30. The organization updated its policy “as an extra layer of precaution,” according to a spokesperson, and at the advice of its health advisors.

Broadway has not yet changed its official health and safety policies, which require proof of full vaccination for entry, for audience members. However, all Shubert theaters stopped bar services for patrons this weekend. The Shubert Organization plans to reassess its plan for beverages — it has not sold food since the reopening — on Monday.

The Broadway League is also speaking with unions about establishing protocols for theater workers to receive booster shots.

The Metropolitan Opera was one of the first institutions to announce a booster policy. Starting Jan. 17, staff members and audience members will need to provide proof of having received a booster shot to enter the building.

These policies come as Broadway has seen a marked increase in canceled performances due to breakthrough cases detected within companies. On Saturday, eight out of 32 productions on Broadway had canceled performances due to COVID-19 cases, with “Jagged Little Pill” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” forecasting closures through the weekend and others, such as “Mrs. Doubtfire,” continuing a longer hiatus. “Hadestown” canceled its Saturday matinee, but planned to resume Saturday evening.

COVID-19 cases numbers are rising across the city. On Friday, New York state reported 21,027 new coronavirus cases, with New York City making up 10,286 of those cases. That is the highest total since the start of the pandemic — though testing was not readily available in early 2020.

Update: The Public Theater changed its policy on the required timing for each test since the article was first published. It has been updated in the article.