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Actors' Equity Association Says Texas's Spike in Virus Cases is a Reminder That Theatre Safety Plans Must Be Based on Science

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Actors' Equity Association Says Texas's Spike in Virus Cases is a Reminder That Theatre Safety Plans Must Be Based on Science

Actors' Equity Association issued a statement following media reports that Texas has a record high number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients weeks following its early reopening.

"It is deeply alarming that Texas resuming business as usual led to a surge of COVID-19," said Gail Gabler, Western Regional Director of Actors' Equity Association. "The record number of cases in Texas is a stark and troubling reminder that science must guide our decision making and safety plans in the theater community. Equity is continuing to work closely with our public health consultant, Dr. David Michaels, on creating science-based protocols for theaters to safely open so that Equity members may to return to work."

On April 21, Equity's elected Council unanimously passed a new internal membership rule that members may only return to work when the union deems it safe to do so; at the same time Equity retained Dr. Michaels to develop a plan where member safety is put first and decisions are made with a clear safety and scientific basis.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has given no guidance on how to keep workers safe in live theatre, even as he lifted restrictions on performances.

Background: Equity has been working to protect the safety of its members from COVID-19 since before the pandemic caused widespread closures nationwide, making its first public statement on March 2 that staff were making plans to prepare for a possible pandemic, quickly calling to postpone Equity auditions and asking Mayor Bill de Blasio to put worker safety first as the mayor considered whether to limit public gatherings to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

Notably, Equity hired Dr. David Michaels, the former head of OSHA during the Obama administration, to serve as health and safety consultant for the union. Dr. Michaels has so far released a memo stipulating the four conditions that must be met before theaters should consider resuming production.

Equity's other work regarding the coronavirus includes advocacy to increase unemployment and COBRA coverage and launching the Curtain Up Fund to provide members with emergency financial relief.


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