As entertainment venues including Broadway theaters, dance centers, arenas and concert halls lie empty across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, IATSE, the union that represents the workers behind-the-scenes at those venues tweeted earlier this week, “Turn live venues into COVID vaccination sites and use union labor to set it up.”
As the country struggles to figure out the logistics of rolling out the vaccine, and hospitals run out of ICU space, the union and its workers are ready to get back in the game – and so are the venues.
MSG Entertainment, a leader in venues that include New York’s Madison Square Garden, Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre; and The Chicago Theatre said via a spokesperson, “We stand ready to partner with the City and State should they request our help.”
Audrey Fix Schaefer, communications director with National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) echoed those sentiments saying, “As vaccine programs roll out, I’m sure many venues would want to participate, and we want to help. As a post-vaccine industry, our industry can’t reopen without a successful vaccine rollout. But of course, the ready supply of vaccines and government facilitation will be required. Like the rest of the country, we’re looking forward to the time when everyone who wants to be vaccinated is and NIVA would love to help make that happen.”
Last April, stagehands across the country helped to turn those idle venues and arenas into field hospitals across the country. Those hospitals treated patients suffering from COVID-19 with oxygen and whatever else was needed such as lighting and electricity to the hospital beds. IATSE members in Philadelphia set up the Liacouras Center and innovatively used rock and roll rigging techniques to deliver that oxygen and those utilities.
The response to the tweet has been positive with union members chiming in offering their support. “We REALLY want to help,” wrote one Twitter user, while another suggested using movie studio lots.
Probably because we’ve been saying it over and over again. We REALLY want to help.
— Rhiannon (@rhiannonlight) January 12, 2021
Rigging crews, electricians, lighting designers, et all would all do this so swiftly it would blow your socks off. @IATSE professionals design, build, and oversee these large scale projects daily. This is a no-brainer.
— Brendan H. Banks (@brendanhbanks) January 12, 2021
Use the movie studios too. There are thousands of skilled workers and organizers who would rather be putting their knowledge and materials to help rather than toward a bottom line for this company that will happily watch us die on the lot.
— primajohna (@primajohna) January 12, 2021
And just days after it was announced that Dodger Stadium would be turned from a COVID testing site to a COVID vaccine site, the LA Forum in Inglewood announced it would serve as a vaccination site. The news was announced Friday.
Speaking with the LA Times, Kevin McGowan, the director of L.A. County’s Office of Emergency Management said, “There’s a great need for vaccination everywhere but based on infection impact and things like that, it’s in a location that serves an area that has a great need,” McGowan said. “In addition to it, it’s a large facility that has the ability to expand and contract based on supply and demand.”
The LA Forum also served as a Vote Center for the 2020 Presidential General Election.
Jonas Loeb, communications director of IATSE, says this time around turning music venues into a vaccination center would require a new configuration. “It doesn’t use any unusual technique.” He adds, “The workers know those venues better than anyone else and can help hook up all necessary utilities quickly and efficiently. To them, it’s a relatively normal job, but with different stakes.”