Texas has decided to throw caution to the wind | With the end in sight, the UK is calling for a government backed insurance scheme | NYC pilots health pass app, Excelsior Pass

From instructions to wear 2 masks to Texas opting for none at all...

Texas will be the latest to join the likes of Mississippi, Montana, Iowa and North Dakota (among others) and say goodbye to mandatory masks in public. While much of the state has remained open on some scale throughout the pandemic, all restrictions set by the government are being removed including the mask mandate and reduced capacity requirements. Businesses are allowed to open with 100% capacity; however, it will be up to the individual businesses to decide whether or not to continue to limit occupancy and/or require patrons to don masks.

burning mask in front of texas license plate

Governor Greg Abbott’s announcement on Tuesday that Texas will be open for business beginning next week has come as a bit of a shock and the move is being heavily criticized by health officials. The state is still seeing a large number of new cases daily and less than 10% of the 29 million residents have been vaccinated (currently ranked 48/50 for vaccine distribution). The governor stated that people should be responsible to make decisions about their own health & safety.

It’s not just health officials that are skeptical, leaders in the live music scene (which is not excluded and allowed to reopen to full capacity) are concerned that despite the desire to get back to work, the risk to public health isn’t worth it and could set the state and the country back even further. The fact that the spring break holidays are well underway also raises concerns about the potential spread of the virus nationally.

The people of Texas will be able to return to work and normal life… but at what cost.

Time is running out for UK festivals without a government backed insurance scheme

News in the UK last week was consumed by Boris Johnson’s exit plan announcement. The anticipated June 21 reopening date resulted in sold out shows left, right and center as evidenced by Live Nation selling over 170,000 UK festival tickets in 3 days. But was there really any doubt that people would be ready to return to live shows once live shows were possible again? As we mentioned last week, the planned reopening date of June 21 is a best case scenario; everything must go exactly according to plan from now until then and while we hate to be pessimistic, that seems relatively unlikely.

crowd at music festival

Which brings us to this week’s news. The focus is on cancellation insurance or rather, the lack thereof. Many organizers cannot proceed with planning events until the government provides some assurances. For those unaware, it’s not currently possible to obtain COVID cover from the commercial market and the unwillingness of the government to provide support undermines the exit plan entirely. 92.5% of independent festivals will not be able to stage an event in 2021 if there is no decision made by the end of this month, according to the AIF.

If the government doesn’t have enough confidence in the reopening roadmap to provide coronavirus cancellation insurance, how can we expect organizers to have the confidence to spend millions of dollars that will be irrevocable should just 1 thing go wrong.

NYC pilots the Excelsior Pass, opens venues and brings the stages to the streets

For the fourth week in a row, we must mention New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that the state will be piloting the Excelsior Pass, a new “health passport” developed in partnership with IBM. The app will require users to upload proof of vaccination or negative COVID status which will produce a QR code that can then be printed or saved to a mobile device and scanned at participating venues to gain entry. As Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center have reopened to fans, the Excelsior Pass has been tested once at each location thus far and will continue to be in use for all upcoming games. The expectation is that the widespread use of the app will allow venues to return to 100% capacity across the board.

woman holding iPhone showing health pass app, Excelsior Pass
Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's office.

Cuomo also announced that beginning April 2nd, all venues can reopen at ⅓ of capacity with social distancing and mandatory masks. Capacities top out at 100 indoors and 200 outdoors; however, if a venue has the ability to test or verify negative COVID status through on-site testing or a program such as the Excelsior Pass, the limits could be increased to 150 indoors and 500 outdoors. This all comes along with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that the “Open Culture” initiative has been established and kicks off on Monday. 115 streets throughout the city, across all 5 boroughs will be turned into stages offering ticketed performances. A slightly different approach to the aforementioned reopening plan coming out of Texas. Any bets on which will have more success?