NEW YORK — Fans of Broadway will have to wait a little longer for shows to resume — until at least late May.
Although an exact date for various performances to resume has yet to be determined, Broadway producers are now offering refunds and exchanges for tickets purchased for shows through May 30.
“We are working tirelessly with multiple partners on sustaining the industry once we raise our curtains again,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, which represents producers.
Broadway theaters abruptly closed on March 12, knocking out all shows — including 16 that were still scheduled to open — and scrambling the Tony Award schedule. Producers, citing health and city authorities, previously extended the shutdown to June 7, then again to Sept. 6 and again to Jan. 3.
The new timeframe may complicate a clutch of show that had planned to open in the spring, including “MJ,” “The Music Man,” “Flying Over Sunset,” “Caroline or Change,” “Plaza Suite,” “American Buffalo” and “The Minutes.”
Actors’ Equity Association, the national union that represents actors and stage managers, has urged lawmakers to include arts funding and loans to help those who work in the live performing arts.
The move by the Broadway League comes less than a month after the Metropolitan Opera said it will skip an entire season for the first time in its nearly 140-year history and intends to return from the pandemic layoff next September.
In London, producer Cameron Mackintosh has said his company’s West End productions of “Hamilton,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Mary Poppins” and “Les Miserables” won’t reopen until 2021 due to the pandemic. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., has canceled most previously announced performances and events through the end of 2020, as has the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston.
Broadway grossed $1.8 billion last season and attracted a record 15 million people. Producers and labor unions are discussing ways theaters can reopen safely.
Tensions rise as virus cases surge in Wisconsin, Dakotas
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A surge of coronavirus cases in Wisconsin and the Dakotas is forcing a scramble for hospital beds and raising political tensions, as the Upper Midwest and Plains emerge as one of the nation’s most troubling hot spots.
The three states now lead all others in new cases per capita, after months in which many politicians and residents rejected mask requirements while downplaying the risks of the disease that has now killed over 210,000 Americans.
“It’s an emotional roller coaster,” said Melissa Resch, a nurse at Wisconsin’s Aspirus Wausau Hospital, which is working to add beds and reassign staff to keep up with a rising caseload of virus patients, many gravely ill.
“Just yesterday I had a patient say, ’It’s OK, you guys took good care of me, but it’s OK to let me go,’” Resch said. “I’ve cried with the respiratory unit, I’ve cried with managers. I cry at home. I’ve seen nurses crying openly in the hallway.”
The efforts to combat the quickening spread of the virus in the Midwest and Plains states are starting to recall the scenes that played out in other parts of the country over the past several months.
In the spring, New York City rushed to erect field hospitals as emergency rooms were flooded with desperately ill patients. Then, as Northeastern states got a handle on the outbreak, it spread to Sun Belt states like Arizona, Texas and California over the summer. It then moved into the Midwest.
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Task force’s Dr. Birx warns about ‘very different’ coronavirus spread in Northeast
HARTFORD, Conn. — Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force said Thursday she’s concerned about the uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Northeast, noting how more people are becoming infected because of indoor family gatherings and social events.
Birx acknowledged the rest of the country learned from the experiences of Connecticut and other northeastern states during the early days of the pandemic. The kind of spread that is happening now, she said, is “very different” from the spread of the coronavirus during March and April.
“The spread of the virus now is not occurring so much in the workplace as people have taken precautions. It’s happening in homes and social occasions and people gathering and taking their mask off and letting down their guard and not physically distancing,” said Birx, noting that was a lesson learned in the South during the hot summer months, when people went indoors for air conditioning.
She repeatedly stressed the need to wear face masks and social distance, as well as more testing for people who have the virus but aren’t showing symptoms and can unknowingly spread it.
Birx met Thursday with Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont, his public health staff, and faculty members, students and staffers from the University of Connecticut at the downtown Hartford campus to discuss the university’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. She credited the university with having one of the highest percentages of students taking in-person classes in the U.S.
Her visit came the same day the Connecticut Department of Public Health issued a COVID-19 alert for New London, urging residents to stay home if they don’t feel well, avoid indoor gatherings with people they don’t live with, limit trips outside the home and wear masks anytime they leave the home.
Between Sept. 20 and Oct. 3, New London recorded at least 115 new cases, which increased the daily case rate to 30.5 per 1000,000. It’s one of the highest rates in the state.
The department issued a similar alert last week for nearby Norwich. Both communities are in a part of Connecticut that did not see large numbers of infections during the height of the pandemic.
Birx said indoor activities with the heat on are “particularly conducive to spreading events without your mask.” She suggested people increase ventilation with outside air, including cracking a window.
UNC delays spring semester and cancels spring break
RALEIGH, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will delay the start of the spring semester by nearly two weeks, school officials announced Thursday.
In a message to the campus community, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Robert Blouin said the college will eliminate its traditional spring break so it can “limit any potential spread of the virus caused by travel during an extended break.”
UNC will instead offer five days of breaks during the semester either individually or in combined clusters.
“The schools and deans will make clear that these wellness days are intended as breaks from the semester – not for studying – so faculty will be instructed to avoid scheduling exams, quizzes and other major assignments on days following these breaks. The dates for the wellness days will be updated on the Registrar’s website soon,” Guskiewicz and Blouin wrote.
Classes will start on Jan. 19 and end on May 5. Commencement is scheduled for May 16.
In-person undergraduate classes were halted in August a week into the semester after a series of COVID-19 outbreaks struck campus.
Doctors and nurses frustrated by battles with virus skeptics
MISSION, Kan. — Treating the sick and dying isn’t even the toughest part for nurse Amelia Montgomery as the coronavirus surges in her corner of red America.
It’s dealing with patients and relatives who don’t believe the virus is real, refuse to wear masks and demand treatments like hydroxychloroquine, which President Donald Trump has championed even though experts say it is not effective against the scourge that has killed over 210,000 in the U.S.
Montgomery finds herself, like so many other doctors and nurses, in a world where the politics of the crisis are complicating treatment efforts, with some people even resisting getting tested.
It’s unclear how Trump’s bout with the virus will affect the situation, but some doctors aren’t optimistic. After a few days of treatment at a military hospital, the president tweeted Monday, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. … I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”
After one tough shift on the coronavirus unit at Cox South Hospital in Springfield, Montgomery went onto Facebook to vent her frustrations about caring for patients who didn’t socially distance because they didn’t believe the virus was real. The hospital later shared her post on its website.
She complained that some people demand the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and think the only patients who get really sick have underlying health problems.
“The majority of people don’t understand and can’t picture what we are seeing. That has been frustrating for all of us,” Montgomery said in an interview, adding: “It wears.”
Combating virus skeptics is a battle across the country.
In Georgia, at Augusta University Medical Center, visitors have tried to get around the mask requirement by wearing face coverings made of fishnet and other material with visible holes, something the hospital has dubbed “malicious compliance.” People also have shown up with video cameras in an attempt to collect proof the virus is a hoax, said Dr. Phillip Coule, the health system’s chief medical officer, who contracted the virus in July and has seen two staff members die.
“Just imagine that while you are caring for your own staff that are dying from this disease, and while you are trying to keep yourself safe, and you are trying to keep your family safe, and you are trying to deal with a disease that such little is known about, and then to have somebody tell you that it is all a hoax after you have been dealing with that all day,” he said. “Imagine the emotional distress that that causes.”
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Some parts of England – but not others – brace for lockdown
LONDON — The British government is mulling fresh restrictions on everyday life in England, potentially in the big northern cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, amid mounting fears that hospitals in coronavirus hot spots may soon be overwhelmed.
With the number of people needing to go to the hospital with virus-related conditions rising, and in some areas in the north of England alarmingly so, the pressure on the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government to do more is mounting.
“We are currently considering what steps we should take, obviously taking the advice of our scientific and medical advisers, and a decision will be made shortly,” British Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC on Thursday. “In some parts of the country, the number of cases are rising very fast and we are taking that very seriously.”
Britain already has Europe’s deadliest outbreak, with over 42,600 dead. The latest daily figures published Thursday showed 17,540 new cases across the U.K., more than double the level of the previous week. The number of people being hospitalized increased by 609 while the death toll rose by 77.
Behind the national numbers lurk huge regional variations, which has led to calls for more concerted local actions.
“We are seeing a definite and sustained increase in cases and admissions to hospital,” said Dr. Yvonne Doyle, medical director for Public Health England. “The trend is clear, and it is very concerning.”
Because the virus has been accelerating at differing speeds around England, the government has opted for tighter local restrictions to combat the spread. But the differing rules have stoked confusion and there is growing speculation the government will back a new simplified three-tier system for England soon.
Hot spots, notably in the big cities of northern England, such as Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, could see restrictions tightened to those taking effect Friday in Scotland, where pubs in the two biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, have been ordered to close for 16 days.
In many areas of northern England, it’s not clear the local restrictions have worked — in some areas, the number of new infections is 10 times higher than when the localized virus restrictions were announced.