With the coronavirus causing widespread cancelations of arts events and with some cities canceling any events with more than 1,000 people, it seems inevitable that symphony orchestras and will need to seriously consider what to do in the next few months.
Living in a place where the virus is now spreading in the community (more than 50 people are quarantined in my Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena alone, the city council announced Monday), the current concern is the potential for the cases to overwhelm the health system.
While many people may be young, healthy and not worried about it, there will be a percentage of people who contract the virus who need hospitalization and special care. Consider this: If 300 people have it and 50 need care and nine people die from the disease, that is one set of numbers. But if 30,000 people have it all at once, 5,000 suddenly need special care, 900 die from the disease - you see the problem. So slowing the spread of the virus has become a major priority, so that the cases don't overwhelm the medical system.
Also, yes, "I'm not worried about getting it" - many people don't see it as a personal threat. But anyone can have it for five days without symptoms; for some people, the virus can run its full course with minimal symptoms. Considering this, it is very possible to GIVE it to someone who could be more vulnerable than you.
Which brings me to a scenario where this could happen: when you crowd together a large group of elderly people mixed with younger people.
As of writing this, I've received a number of notices from symphonies in the Los Angeles area; so far they are not canceling concerts, but they are encouraging sick people to stay home, providing hand sanitizer, doing an extra cleaning of the venue and scanning tickets instead of handling them.
But in some areas, musical organizations have been required to take more drastic measures due to coronavirus concerns, and that too could spread.
For example, the San Francisco Symphony canceled all performances this week and next, as the city has closed its venue. Itzhak Perlman's concert tonight at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was canceled because of travel concerns for the artist. The Juilliard School suspended all in-person classes and activities and transitioned to remote learning through March 29. The New England Conservatory has closed its campus to the public until May 1, including Jordan Hall, thereby canceling any programs that were scheduled there, including Boston Baroque. Some cities are simply banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people. Soloists have cut short tours. Classes at universities and music schools across the country have transitioned to online learning.
The list is growing by the minute.
What can we do?
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