How Pittsburgh’s Cultural District is Combatting the Surge in COVID Cases

Mask mandates, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test may be required to enter your favorite Downtown locales.
Hiddenpgh Benedum11

PHOTO BY CHUCK BEARD

Even though the Pittsburgh Cultural District plans to reopen fully, some things are going to look a little different as the city continues to navigate life amid an ever-changing pandemic.

The Cultural District — a cluster of theaters, art galleries and cultural landmarks such as Heinz Hall, the Benedum Center and the Byham Theater — outlined Thursday several “layers of defense” the venues will take in the name of public safety as COVID-19 cases surge and new variants continue to pop up.

Beginning Sept. 17, guests ages 12 and older will need to be fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots, and must show proof of vaccination at their time of entry into the theater. Masks will also be required in all Cultural District businesses whenever Allegheny County is in the “substantial” or “high” transmission rate of community spread. 

“In addition to mandatory vaccinations and mask-wearing inside its venues, Cultural District organizations have each implemented several ‘layers of defense’ against COVID-19 throughout the pandemic,” the District said in a press release. “These include HVAC upgrades to enhance air filtration and quality, the installation of touchless fixtures in all venues, enhanced cleaning processes and procedures across all venues, staff COVID Compliance Officer training, and the use of EVOLV security screening.”

Heinz Hall, the home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, announced its own set of guidelines, as well. Starting Sept. 6, the hall will also be implementing a masking mandate similar to that of the Cultural District as a whole; whenever there is substantial or high levels of community transmission, all patrons must mask up regardless of their vaccination status. Masks will always be required for the unvaccinated. 

Proof of vaccination is also required for all patrons attending indoor performances at Heinz Hall, with two exceptions: Children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine, or “people with a medical condition of closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination,” according to a press release. Individuals who fall into the exempted categories will still have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test — either a PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance’s start time, or an antigen test taken within 24 hours of the show  — along with a valid photo ID. 

Similarly, Pittsburgh Opera has put new requirements in place for audiences at indoor performances and events. These requirements are identical to Heinz Hall; masks are a must and patrons must show proof of vaccination or, if they have an exemption, a negative COVID test result. Pittsburgh Opera also specified that it reserves the right to require guests to remain masked regardless of community spread if it’s deemed necessary to protect artist and staff safety. 

“Safety continues to be our number one priority,” said Pittsburgh Opera General Director Christopher Hahn in a press release. “Knowing their fellow audience members are vaccinated helps patrons better enjoy our performances. For our younger audience members who aren’t yet eligible for a vaccine, we hope their parents consider a negative test a worthwhile investment to enable them to experience our beautiful art, especially the family favorite “The Magic Flute.”

Self-administered tests or self-reported vaccination records that aren’t verified by a healthcare provider won’t be accepted.

These vaccination requirements also apply to all guests at Pittsburgh Opera’s Diamond Horseshoe Dinner, slated for Oct. 30 at the Omni William Penn Hotel. (The hotel has its own set of COVID-19 guidelines, as well.)

At Pittsburgh Opera, that encompasses the Rising Stars concerts at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters in the Strip District, scheduled for Oct. 3; the Brown Bag Resident Artist concerts, held at the same venue on Oct. 16 and Nov. 13; the Magic & Spirits Halloween party at the Headquarters on Oct. 30; and all “The Magic Flute” performances on Nov. 6, 9, 12 and 14 at the Benedum Center.

The District’s masking and vaccination policies — as well as the policies at the individual venues — will be in place until Nov. 30.

Categories: The 412