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Cleveland Orchestra, Playhouse Square Add COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement

Franz Welser Most conducts the Cleveland Orchestra on the Severance stage. [Ideastream Public Media]
Franz Welser Most conducts the Cleveland Orchestra on the Severance stage

The Cleveland Orchestra and Playhouse Square announced Tuesday they will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry to performances. 

Effective September 15 at Severance Hall, the updated health and safety policies apply to all audience members aged 12 or over. In addition, face masks will be required at all times, according to a news release.

Specifically, proof of full COVID-19 vaccination is required (completed at least two weeks prior to the performance date). The venue will also accept proof of a negative PCR test from within 72 hours of a performance.

One option for presenting that proof is through using the downloadable CLEAR app for touchless verification. Otherwise, an audience member must show an original vaccination card or a picture of it on a cellphone along with a valid photo ID, such as a driver’s license.

Regardless of vaccination status, all concert-goers must wear face coverings that meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standards. Neck gaiters and bandanas don’t qualify. Attendees without approved masking will be provided disposable facemasks.

Playhouse Square also issued a news release Tuesday requiring all audience members provide proof of vaccination or a negative test result in the event they cannot be vaccinated, effective September 30. According to the release, Playhouse Square will notify patrons how to present verification and already has a mask requirement in place. 

These rules are similar to health and safety measures announced by a growing list of performing arts organizations and concert venues, from the baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire to clubs like the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights and Musica in Akron.

In an email, Cleveland Orchestra spokesman Justin Holden said that the new policy applies to all events at Severance, including facility rentals and performances staged by outside promoters.

Holden said the orchestra is not currently limiting audience size and continues to monitor the situation and consult with the Cleveland Clinic.

The full orchestra will return to the stage this fall, after a season of virtual performances and limited instrumentation.

“We are not limiting orchestra members on stage,” Holden said. “They will not be socially distanced, and will not wear masks when on stage when performing. They will wear masks when not on stage, when backstage, or in other parts of the building.”

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.