Kimmel Center rolls out new vaccine mandate ahead of September reopening

The Kimmel Center.

The Kimmel Center (Beyond my Ken / Wikimedia Commons)

Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center has announced it is requiring all guests to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination when it reopens next month.

The vaccine mandate will apply to all its venues: the Center for the Performing Arts, the Academy of Music, and the Merriam Theater, as well as locations away from the main campus, like the Forrest Theatre on Walnut Street. The center also confirmed it will enforce Philadelphia’s mask mandate throughout its locations, except when patrons are “actively consuming food or beverage in designated locations.”

The center has been closed throughout the pandemic. The new mandates will be in place for its reopening event on Sept. 18, which organizers say will feature live performances from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be free to the public.

People interested in attending the reopening, or any subsequent event, should bring proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The center says proof of negative COVID tests will not be accepted for entry, except in the case of children under 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccination. Those children will be required to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours.

A statement from the theater did not mention how it might handle cases in which adults can’t medically receive the vaccines, but it noted that the policy “is subject to change based upon guidance from the CDC and local health authorities.”

It added that the precise entry procedures and Kimmel Center facilities will use are “still being developed,” and that it’s observing similar mandates already in use in New York City theaters — some of which have opted to bar children under 12 — and at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center.

A press release from the center quoted Anne Ewers, who heads the Kimmel Cultural Campus, as saying that she and other leaders had partnered with other performing arts centers for an “in-depth study” on the guests who would be using their facilities, and used those findings to inform their reopening plans.

“We have learned that 99% of our audiences are already vaccinated, and they are ready to engage with the arts in person once again,” she said, adding that the Kimmel Center is “listening to feedback from our guests, our staff, and our artists, and the clear consensus is safety should be our number one priority as we navigate a return to convening around the arts.”

A spokesperson for the center said it has also made several physical changes to its campus in deference to virus safety, including updating HVAC systems and installing CDC-recommended Merv-13 air filters, disinfecting “high-touch areas” more frequently, and equipping all its venues with hand sanitizer dispensers.

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