Blog Post

Preparing for The Possibility of In-Person Shows in 2022

tl;dr – we’re preparing for the return of outdoor shows (targeting April) and indoor shows and rehearsals (targeting May) but we’re monitoring how things proceed over the next few weeks as mask mandates are lifted.

About 7 months ago, with the rise of the Delta variant across the United States, we announced that we would be pressing pause on in-person shows at Highwire Improv. We made this decision based on three key factors:

  1. An increasing case rate (a 7-day rolling average of 696 cases per day in Maryland on August 8th).
  2. Uncertainty around Delta’s impact on breakthrough cases for vaccinated individuals.
  3. The reinstatement of the indoor mask mandate in Baltimore City.

As we summarized at the time, the risk was on the rise, while the reward was on the decline.

Obviously, quite a lot has happened in the meantime. We’ve kept track along the way, but nothing since August (the rise of the Delta wave, the arrival of the Omicron variant, the research on breakthrough cases for vaccinated and boosted individuals) had changed our thinking, which has been that outdoor shows are feasible, but indoor shows are not. Of course, outdoor shows have also been on pause throughout the colder months.

This week, there have been two important updates to consider. First, on February 25th, the CDC updated their guidance on indoor masking and their classification of risk levels. Second, on March 1st, Baltimore City has ended their indoor mask mandate. We’ve updated our living document on in-person shows to reflect these changes, but it’s important to talk through them here also.

First, the new CDC guidance introduces a concept of community risk levels that account for both case load and hospitalizations for and with COVID-19. More details are available on the official CDC page. But the salient point is that the CDC connects both individual and community risk mitigation measures to these new community risk levels.

As of today, Baltimore City is in the ‘Low’ category, which means we have:

  • Fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 people in the past 7 days
  • Fewer than 10 new hospitalization admissions per 100,000 people in the past 7 days
  • and less than 10% of our staffed in-patient hospital bed capacity is occurpied by COVID-19 patients (over the past 7 days)

This is a bit more complicated than just looking at case rates (a 7-day rolling average of 583 cases per day in Maryland on March 1st) but better accounts for both community spread and impact on the health care system. According to the CDC guidance, individuals in communities in the Low and Moderate risk levels do not need indoor masking regardless of vaccination status, which aligns with the lifting of the indoor mask mandate in Baltimore City.

So what does this mean for Highwire?

Well, we’ve seen this story play out a few times already over the past two years and as such, we’re proceeding with caution.

But, the risk is on the decline, and the reward is on the rise.

As of now, our plan is to prepare for the return of outdoor shows as the weather allows (beginning in April), and the prepare for the return of indoor shows with Season 7, beginning in May. We’re also actively looking at securing indoor rehearsal/jam/workshop space, also targeting May. We’re not yet updating our guidance to say that indoor activites are back – we would like to monitor how things proceed following the removal of the mask mandate before making any more concrete plans.

As always, the safety of our community is top priority – we want to get back on stage as soon as possible too, but not until we’re confidnet that now is the time. Any input is welcome, here, or via email at highwireimprov@gmail.com

2 Comments

  • Kathy

    While your city has stopped the use of masks indoors, you could do what Sarasota arts venues have been doing and hold indoor shows where everyone must stay masked. They even require vax records, although that one is up to you.

    • Absolutely, and we’ll likely do that. Waiting until May / Season 7 is also about having the time to get all of the logistics in order. Thankfully we have a lot of venues in Baltimore supportive of such things.

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