Broadway theaters in New York will drop coronavirus mask mandates for audience members starting July 1, the industry trade group Broadway League announced Tuesday.
“The owners and operators of all 41 Broadway theatres in New York City will keep masking mandates in place at all Broadway theatres through June 30, and will adopt a ‘mask optional’ policy for the month of July,” the announcement stated. “Audience members are still encouraged to wear masks in theaters.”
The Broadway League said it will reconsider masking protocols on a monthly basis and will announce the policy for August in mid-July.
“This is not an easy decision — there are more people that want masks off than on, but plenty still want them on — and we’re encouraging people that have any concerns to wear their masks,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, according to The New York Times.
The requirement is being loosened after several Broadway stars tested positive for COVID this month.
Beanie Feldstein, the protagonist of “Funny Girl” on Broadway, announced she contracted COVID in an Instagram post on June 7. Feldstein was replaced by Julie Benko during her recovery, according to a tweet posted on the show’s account.
Hugh Jackman, the star of “The Music Man,” announced he tested positive for the virus on June 13, less than a day after performing at the Tony Awards. Jackman said Max Clayton would fill in for him.
The relaxed mask mandate at Broadway theatres was announced on the same day that New York City downgraded its COVID-19 alert level from high to medium, citing a decrease in cases and hospitalizations. COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the city were now at 240.4 and hospitalizations per 100,000 had fallen to 9.8, Mayor Eric Adams and Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said in a joint statement.
“We’re grateful to New Yorkers for their continued attention and vigilance as we’ve made our way through to the other side of this wave,” the two officials said.
The medium COVID alert level includes recommendations for people to get vaccinated and boosted, and to wear a mask in public indoor spaces where the vaccination status of other people is unknown. Under the previous high alert level, New Yorkers were told to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Adams and Vasan said health officials learned a lot about the virus during this year’s surge and highlighted the importance of existing public health safety measures, including masks.
“Testing, vaccinations, treatments, and masking have been vital tools to keep people alive and out of the hospital,” they said. “But we know there remains no greater defense against this virus than vaccination, which is why we’re pleased that young children are now eligible for the protection they deserve, and can’t wait to begin under-5 vaccination.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended COVID vaccinations for children under age 5 on Saturday. The first vaccinations for this age group in New York City are set to begin Wednesday.
Earlier, this month New York’s mayor rolled back mask requirements for children under the age of 5 “in all early childhood settings.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.