Seattle Opera will continue to require masks despite state mask mandate lifted

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SEATTLE — As Washington lifts its mask mandate for many indoor spaces starting March 12, some performance venues in Seattle are saying, not so soon.

Seattle Opera will continue to enforce mask-wearing during performances through the end of the season in May, despite the state lifting the mask mandate. Proof of vaccination will also be required among spectators despite the requirement being lifted in King County on March 1.

“It’s for the safety of our audience, for the comfort of our audience; the assurance that when they come to us and when they sit with other people in the auditorium, they are as safe as possible,” said Christina Sheppelmann, executive director of the Seattle Opera.

Sheppelmann recalls the pandemic shutdown impacting Opera House operations, effectively halting in-person performances until last October, when audiences were allowed back to watch in-person performances. For the opera group, keeping the masks on was a no-brainer.

“I think more than being careful, it’s about being responsible and protecting your audience,” Sheppelmann said.

The number of COVID-19 cases remains low in King County, as described in a Friday briefing by Jeffrey Duchin, chief health officer for Seattle and King County Public Health.

“COVID-19 is still circulating and some risks remain, especially people with weakened immune systems…for this reason, using high-quality, well-fitting masks still makes sense for some people,” said Duchin said.

Sheppelmann also requires staff to be vaccinated and undergo rigorous testing, which paid off in January when the omicron variant hit, and no shows had to be canceled due to COVID-19 cases.

“So the effort was worth it, the stress was worth it because we did what we set out to do,” Sheppelmann said.

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