Sarasota Venues Addressing Coronavirus

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY MAR 12, 2020

What’s a city of cultural arts to do when fear lurks with every crowd?

Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin and Sarasota Department of Health Officer Chuck Henryon Wednesday met with performing venue leaders from around the city to discuss appropriate response to the coronavirus. The health threat, just declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, has raised a greater level of alarm in Florida since the first patient to test positive, a Manatee County resident, was treated at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota. That patient was since released. But a Lee County patient was the first of two deaths, both reported last Friday.

The meeting including the Baltimore Orioles, Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota Opera, Sarasota County Fair, Sarasota Film Festival, Mote Marine Laboratory, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Studio Theatre, Arts Alliance of Sarasota County and the city-owned Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Barwin said local institutions didn’t see a significant drop-off in sales until this weekend. But officials are urging all businesses to remain careful but calm.

“The cases here are few and far between,” Barwin said. “We know who the at-risk groups are, and the venues are all using their best practices to minimize risk from any virus, including common seasonal flu.”

Leaders at all venues are wiping down surfaces and keeping sanitizer handy; some have ushers wearing gloves when handing out fliers.

For the moment, there’s no need for venues to cancel gatherings, whether that’s musical performances or baseball games. And Barwin noted that none of the 23 confirmed positive tests in Florida so far originated in Sarasota County.

Health officials promised prompt briefings if that changes, and are issuing flash reports to the public. The city website now has a link to the reports on its homepage.

At-risk groups include those in their 70s or older, particularly those with underlying health conditions. Arts leaders in the region have been responsible and offered credit or refunds to ticket holders who need to cancel because of coronavirus concerns.

“We don’t want anybody at risk to go just because they bought ticket and don’t want to waste money,” Barwin said. “But all of our venues gladly grant tickets to future events or full refunds. That’s a reasonable thing to do at this point.”

Photo: Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

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