Cautious Steps to Re-Opening the Arts with Advice From Yale School of Public Health

How do you practice social distancing in a dance studio? Look at the way birds fly, always one after the other, but never collide.

It’s one of many suggestions Dr. Sten Vermund of the Yale School of Public Health has given to theaters, museums, and other art venues that want to strike a balance between keeping visitors safe and returning to work.

The Yale School of Public Health partnered with Shoreline Arts Alliance in March 2020 to advise companies on the best ways to navigate the myriad and ever-changing public health regulations over the course of the pandemic. The group has hosted 12 public health practice webinars that have been viewed by thousands of people in the US and abroad.

The reopening of art venues has recently become even more relevant due to the relaxation of certain guidelines. Last Wednesday, Governor Ned Lamont revoked social distance and mask mandates, with the exception of unvaccinated individuals indoors. Centers for Disease Control have also recommended that vaccinated individuals be able to go indoors without masks.

But museums and theaters remain cautious about reverting to the days of a packed opening night too soon, said Eric Dillner, CEO of the Shoreline Arts Alliance.

“We don’t want to have anything to distribute in any of these facilities. My mantra is ‘Let’s open right the first time,’ ”said Dillner.

Susan Tamulevich, executive director of the Custom House Maritime Museum in New London, said she watched the webinars throughout the year. She said it helped her stay on top of all the changing guidelines.

“It’s all been immensely helpful at a time when you feel a little helpless,” she said.

Vermund visited the museum two weeks ago in anticipation of its full reopening for Memorial Day Weekend. Tamulevich said the visit felt like some sort of “seal of approval” that she hopes will reassure customers that they are doing everything they can to keep them safe.

During visits, Vermund asks the site directors to guide him as if he were a patron and makes suggestions on things like air quality, how to control traffic patterns, and cleaning policies. He said there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

“We’ve been to museums that are essentially historic homes and have no HVAC at all,” he said. “We’ve been to big theaters, small theaters, performing arts and ballet studios. Each of them has nuances. “

Move the sky

Vermund has faced numerous challenges – from figuring out how to clean railings made of rope to minimizing the spread of particles in the woodwind section of an orchestra (plexiglass shields can help) – but every venue has a common need: air filtration – one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of viral infections such as COVID-19. See the article : Top 10 Best Hvac Humidifiers 2021 – Bestgamingpro.

Krystal Pollitt, a professor of epidemiology and chemical and environmental engineering at the Yale School of Public Health, explained that air filters can trap particles containing the virus that would otherwise remain in the air from minutes to hours and potentially infect nearby people.

She recommends sites to equip their HVAC systems with a MERV-13 filter, which is tightly woven and can trap the virus more effectively.

But even locations with HVAC systems capable of the high performance filters without major renovations will face higher energy costs, given the greater force required to push air through the filters.

Vermund noted the irony of asking people to reduce the efficiency of their air filter systems in light of his focus on climate change and global warming.

“I really don’t have a choice,” he said. “I welcome the day when we can relax some of the air quality austerity and if everyone agreed to be vaccinated we would get there.”

Pollitt said she no longer recommends that offices immediately upgrade their HVAC systems.

“Whenever you start talking about HVAC system retrofits … [people] start to panic thinking about what the costs mean, ”she said.

“The arts organizations don’t roll in the best of times,” admitted Vermund.

Vermund and Pollitt have been working to create more affordable options – for example, by taking a MERV-13 filter and attaching it to a box fan with duct tape, which Pollitt says can move a “significant” amount of air.

Tamulevich said they would build two such fans before the museum reopens completely. She said it cost less than $ 125 and the additional energy costs would be negligible.

Donna Lynn Hilton, the Artistic Director of Goodspeed Opera House, also received a visit from Dr. Vermund. She said they installed MERV-13 filters in their HVAC system after the visit.

Although she is aware that changes will cost more money, she believes it is necessary.

“We have to do what we have to do to make sure people are safe, it’s just a reality,” Hilton said. She added that performing arts venues “can’t afford to do this wrong.”

As safe as possible

Another question that sites are facing is whether they can – or should – continue with some of the safety protocols, such as social distancing and masking, now that much of the public has been vaccinated. See the article : Less expensive, quick fix could open Spinnaker rec center in 8 weeks.

Vermund said he saw no problem in continuing to mask people, despite recent guidelines.

“We don’t have anything close to herd immunity,” he said, adding that it’s impossible to know who has or hasn’t been vaccinated.

Tamulevich said her organization was still asking customers to wear masks and all of their teachers had been vaccinated. But she said the Custom House Maritime Museum doesn’t typically have large numbers of people in their space.

“We’re the perfect COVID museum because we never get big crowds,” she said.

Although Goodspeed does not plan to operate indoors until the fall, Hilton said she was encouraged that their plan appeared to be in good shape.

“I think I was surprised how optimistic Dr. Vermund was,” she said. “It was reassuring to hear how much confidence he had in the vaccines.”

For now, she said, Goospeed will remain cautious. The theater plans to begin open-air performances the week of June 10, and performers will be tested once a week, but Hilton said she was still unsure whether the theater needs masks.

“We want to be as safe as possible,” she said.

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