Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required for audiences at Milwaukee performing arts shows

NOW: Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required for audiences at Milwaukee performing arts shows

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58)  -- Nearly a dozen of Milwaukee's performing arts organizations announced Wednesday, Sept. 1, they will require COVID-19 vaccinations or proof of a negative test within 72 hours of events for all audience members 12 and older attending indoor performances.

The announcement follows similar decisions from Summerfest, The Pabst Theater Group and Milwaukee Film.

Performing arts organizations following these COVID-19 precautions include: Black Arts MKE, First Stage, Florentine Opera, Marcus Performing Arts Center, Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Present Music, and Skylight Music Theatre.

"This is going to keep us operating, we cannot have another year where we have to shut down," Marcus Performing Arts Center president and CEO Kendra Whitlock Ingram said in an interview.

Ingram said her organization has surveyed patrons over the past year to gauge their interest in returning. Responses have shown audiences want to return but want a safe experience.

"This is just one layer to keep operating and keep our audiences and artists and staff safe and to ensure that we can come back to live performance," Ingram said.

Venue leaders said the requirement policies are not only a health measure but also a business decision to ensure their survival.

"We lost more than $7 million in earned revenue, the only way to do this is to do it safely," Chad Bauman, the executive director for Milwaukee Repertory Theater, told CBS 58. "When we open back up we have sunk costs and those sunk costs are real, and so if we have to shut down again, it's going to double that same pain."

The fall performing arts season comes as the state Department of Health Services reports the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin is at its highest level in seven months.

State health leaders say no one policy is a catch-all to stop the spread of the virus, but putting them all together helps keep people safe.

"Encouraging or requiring vaccination is probably the single greatest intervention that we can make to reduce the risk in those settings," DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases Chief Medical Officer Ryan Westergaard told reporters Wednesday. "And the hope is that when we layer this on top of each other, masks indoors, vaccinations for everyone who is in attendance outdoors versus indoors, good ventilation, and when we layer these, we can make these activities as safe as possible."

Exact protocols may vary by organization, and audience members are encouraged to contact individual organizations for details or questions regarding policies.

Refunds will be offered for previously purchased tickets. Visit the organization's individual websites or call their box offices for details.

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