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Coronavirus: Straz, Ruth Eckerd, other venues not canceling events yet

Hospital-grade cleanings and ‘non-contact greetings’ are in effect at Tampa Bay theaters.
The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa.
The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa. [ DENNIS JOYCE | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Mar. 9, 2020
Updated Mar. 9, 2020

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Days after coronavirus anxiety led to the cancellations of major music events like South by Southwest and the Ultra Music Festival, venues closer to home are playing wait and see.

Officials with the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Mahaffey Theater, Tampa Theatre, Palladium, St. Petersburg Opera Company and Largo’s Central Park Performing Arts Center said Monday that no upcoming events have been impacted by coronavirus, but they’re monitoring government guidelines as events unfold.

“We have discussed this and as of right now, all previously scheduled events are moving forward,” said Joseph Santiago, general manager at the Mahaffey, which has increased its daily cleaning in high-touch areas with hospital-grade disinfectant. "We encourage people to wash their hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, stay home if sick or ill, and to limit physical contact.”

Starting with an appearance last week by snowboarder Shaun White, the Tampa Theatre started encouraging patrons with meet-and-greet tickets to engage in “non-contact greetings” with live speakers.

“Alternative options include waving, a thumbs up, jazz hands, the Vulcan salute, a shaka sign, or simply a warm ‘hello,’” the theater posted on signs during the White event.

Related: Review: Gasparilla Music Festival forges through coronavirus fears with Brandi Carlile

The Florida Orchestra, which performs at multiple venues around town, placed extra hand sanitizer stations around the Straz Center lobby for a performance last Friday. There have been no schedule changes yet, said spokeswoman Kelly Smith — although if one venue closes its doors, it could have a domino effect.

"We'd be in close contact with the venues about why they are closing and make decisions based on that," she said. "That said, we are renters, so if the venue closes we naturally wouldn't have much choice."

Michael Francis, the orchestra's music director, said last week he still planned to travel to upcoming gigs in Germany, London and Indianapolis.

"I'll do everything I can not to be a carrier, but I'm going to carry on," he said.

Two major upcoming Tampa Bay music festivals have both stated that they intend to go on as planned.

Reggae Rise Up, set for March 20-22 in St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, said they're watching coronavirus news and "increasing our sanitation assets throughout the festival," said spokesman Adam St. Simons.

And the Sunset Music Festival, which could bring 50,000 fans to Raymond James Stadium on May 23-24, tweeted Monday that it's working with local authorities on safety protocol.

Related: With South by Southwest canceled due to coronavirus, Tampa bands left in lurch

Canceling a festival is a major undertaking, said Jorge Brea, CEO of Tampa’s Symphonic Distribution, which had been scheduled to sponsor an event at South by Southwest. But he understands why that festival made that decision.

“Nobody will want to be on the hook if something does happen,” he said. “The big impact is on the musicians; companies that were going to exhibit; the City of Austin, who gets an economic boost; and the event organizers. I’m hopeful that everything goes well with this virus and that it doesn’t create more of a problem than it already has.”

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

Q&A: The latest and all your questions answered.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Household cleaners can kill the virus on most surfaces, including your phone screen.

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FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

READER BEWARE: Look out for bad information as false claims are spreading online.

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