To the VP MUSICIANS:
There have been a number of requests to eliminate the requirement that VP musicians wear mask at all times except when they cannot do so while playing their instruments. The board has discussed the mask policy, and has decided on changes to be implemented starting with the rehearsals for the winter concert. These changes are based on the following:
We are therefore allowing all of our musicians to choose whether to mask. But, we are strongly encouraging that they do so. We ask that everyone recognize that a number of our fellow musicians – and friends – could be seriously sickened or even killed by COVID or the flu (or other viruses), and to take this into account when deciding whether to mask. Just being a bit uncomfortable masking or being philosophically opposed to masking is not enough. Most of us hate masks. But if we all gave them up, the science is clear that the risk of spreading viruses would go up a lot. We are confident that the orchestra, as a community, will think very carefully before putting a desire for comfort ahead of the health of others. Conversely, we expect that all who do not mask will have a good reason for doing so. Everyone should take other reasonable precautions to avoid spreading viral diseases, and those not masking should make extra efforts. These include not attending rehearsals if they have been exposed to someone with COVID or have COVID/Flu symptoms. Now, COVID symptoms are similar to those of other conditions (including allergies), so personal judgment calls will have to be made. If you think the condition is probably not due to COVID, we suggest taking one or more rapid tests. But, as noted above, rapid tests should not be used to justify attending rehearsal when symptoms indicate that it is likely you have COVID.The bottom line: while we are not demanding, we are asking everyone to take all reasonable precautions – including masking - to avoid bringing COVID or other viruses to the orchestra. Think of everyone else in the orchestra as a grandperson whose health isn’t great. (Could be you someday…) We are continuing the requirement that everyone be vaccinated, and strongly encourage that they get all of the boosters. We look forward to a healthy season,The VP Board
- COVID has not gone away. It still kills over 300 people a day, about 80% of whom are older – a characteristic of many of our musicians. It does not appear to be going away soon, and in fact most experts are expecting hospitalizations and deaths to rise during the coming months. On top of that, COVID and other viral diseases are quite capable of sickening enough people to significantly impede an organization’s function. Schools have been closed for several days because of lack of staff due to illness. It would be a big disappointment to all if the Philharmonic had to cancel a performance(s) due to sickness.
- Masking is an effective way of mitigating spread. But, it is recognized that some people find mask wearing physically debilitating. This includes people with lower than normal lung function or particularly strong sensitivity to masks.
- One-way masking - individuals wearing a mask to protect themselves from unmasked others – is effective, but since, as was just noted, not everyone can wear a mask, just leaving everyone to protect themselves doesn’t work.
- Rapid (antigen) tests can detect infections some of the time. They are useful for mitigating spread when other measures such as masking cannot be taken, but never to justify not wearing a mask.
- Singers pose a particularly high risk of spreading viral diseases. For this reason, the Messiah chorus has special requirements that they be masked for rehearsals and have rapid tests (but no masks) for performances.
- Vaccinations dramatically reduce the likelihood of serious illness, and there is some hope that the most recent booster will keep people from getting and spreading the disease.
October 24, 2022