Hard hit by pandemic, New York City looks to make a comeback

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

New York, Mar 12 (efe-epa).- New York City lowered the curtain on its world-famous entertainment, dining and arts scene on March 13 of last year in an effort to protect the population from the coronavirus.

That metropolis – once the global epicenter of the pandemic – is still struggling to regain its former shine 12 months later, although the quick pace of the United States’ Covid-19 vaccine rollout is now offering it a glimmer of hope.

“We’re forging on, trying to make up for lost time,” Angel Gil Orrios, the artistic/executive director of the Thalia Spanish Theatre, told Efe.

That 100-seat venue is scheduled to reopen at 33 percent capacity on April 2 after New York state authorities gave the green light for live concerts, plays and other performances to resume, albeit with mask and social distancing requirements.

Movie theaters began welcoming back customers a week ago. Large stadiums with seating for more than 10,000 people already are hosting sporting events and concerts. And indoor dining at restaurants has been permitted – with restrictions – since February.

The return of spring also has brought many New Yorkers back outside, and in iconic public spots like Bryant Park, Times Square, Washington Square Park and Fifth Avenue the desire for a return to normal is palpable.

A year after the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, Gil said the Thalia Spanish Theatre, like most of the city’s Off Broadway venues, stayed afloat by taking advantage of its non-profit status to receive government assistance and private and corporate donations.

While the reopening of live performances is a very welcome development, he said the sudden announcement caught his theater off guard since their season typically runs from September until the end of June.

On April 2, a ceremony will be held in honor of the late chairman of the theater’s board of directors, actor Francisco Fuertes, who died of Covid-19 on April 1, 2020.

Also on tap is a monologue starring Lilly Colon, the first Latina member of the famed dance company The Rockettes, according to Gil, who said that for now the shows will continue be streamed online for the benefit of those still wary about sitting indoors alongside other spectators.

The city’s famed Broadway shows, however, remain shuttered and are not expected to reopen for business until September.

Other venerable institutions in New York City such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest in the US, also have been battered by the pandemic, with its president and chief executive officer, Daniel Weiss, confirming Tuesday that the Met is considering selling some of its works to bolster its budget and support its staff during this “unprecedented crisis.”

Although cultural institutions, entertainment venues and dining establishments are eager to put the pandemic behind them, Jeff Schlegelmilch, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, warned that a great deal of uncertainty remains, including doubts about how effective the vaccines will prove to be against new coronavirus variants.

New York authorities are easing off on Covid-19 restrictions in response to pressure from city dwellers who want their normal lives back, according to the expert, who cautioned that from a public health perspective the measures are being lifted too soon. EFE-EPA


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