To mask or not to mask?

Updated Oct. 19

You may have noticed that this month’s calendar cops out on the issue of masking and other Covid-19 safety protocols at musical events, instead directing readers to presenters and venues. Barring future emergencies, that’s how I plan to proceed.

I’m not being lazy . . . well, not too lazy.

The contents of Letter V’s monthly events calendars are drawn primarily from websites, secondarily from season brochures, and occasionally from e-mail and phone exchanges.

During the height(s) of the pandemic, most arts organizations’ websites prominently displayed safety measures – although some educational institutions were frustratingly opaque. Over time, advisories have become harder to find, and if/when found have offered “optional” advice. (“If you don’t feel well, don’t attend.” Duh.)

The ups and downs of Covid-19 infection rates and vaccines’ efficacy have been going on long enough (and confusingly enough) that it’s now down to individual, situational decisions on how cautious to be in public indoors. If I’m infected, how vulnerable am I to increased severity or complications? How vulnerable are the people around me likely to be? How closely packed is the audience? How long will we be seated together? How big and well-ventilated is our shared space?

Those questions apply not just to Covid-19 but also to flu and other seasonal infections. Masking in crowded indoor spaces during cold-weather months may be a healthy and considerate long-term practice.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is to carry a mask to events. If the hall’s staff is masked, I’ll mask up, too. I’ll also wear a mask when I’m in close proximity with many others – especially if there’s a lot of coughing and sneezing. When attending an event at a new or infrequently visited venue, I’ll be more likely to don my mask. And I’ll watch for local or regional surges in communicable, airborne infections of all kinds.

UPDATE: As of Oct. 24, four major New York presenters, the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall and New York City Ballet, will drop masking requirements for their audiences, Norman Lebrecht reports on Slipped Disc:

New York drops face masks – for good

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