Detroit Symphony Orchestra mandates proof of vaccination or negative test

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Guests for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's 2021-22 concert season must mask up as well as provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test, officials announced Wednesday.

The requirements to enter the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center and Orchestra Hall when the season starts Sept. 18 "give the DSO the opportunity to safely bring back as many people as possible to indoor concerts and will remain in place until community transmission rates no longer require them," officials said in a statement.

The Orchestra Hall is slated to operate at full audience capacity during the season, according to the notice.

Wei Yu on cello performs during the Detroit Symphony Orchestra 'Outdoor Performance Series' at Sosnick Courtyard in Detroit, Michigan on Aug. 5, 2020. Guests for the DSO's 2021-22 concert season must mask up as well as provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test, officials announced Wednesday.

The DSO has held more than 100 socially distanced outdoor concerts during the pandemic.

If supporters can't join in person amid the restrictions, DSO President and CEO Anne Parsons invited them to watch online. 

"While we understand everyone’s desire to return to normal, we have concluded that these new policies are necessary to safely welcome back as many people as possible. I remain hopeful that the steps we take now will be temporary and that they will ultimately help to reduce the spread of COVID-19," she said.

The DSO joins other companies, businesses, county health departments, universities and school districts across Michigan imposing vaccination or mask mandates amid soaring coronavirus cases and the more contagious delta variant.

Last month, General Motors Co. announced it would require its U.S. salaried employees to attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status. Spots such as the Detroit nightclub Marble Bar requires proof of vaccination.

Wayne and Oakland counties have implemented mask orders for K-12 schools. Others statewide include Kalamazoo, Allegan, Kent and Ottawa. Washtenaw County is expected to announce a mandate Thursday.

Central Michigan University recently announced that all students, faculty and staff must either provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination by Friday or begin participating in weekly testing for the virus. Michigan State, Wayne State and Grand Valley State universities as well as the University of Michigan require students, faculty and staff to get a vaccine, barring an exemption for medical or religious reasons. 

Medical leaders from 21 of Michigan's top health care institutions issued an open letter to the public on Wednesday, pleading with people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The letter was signed by the chief medical and nursing officers at hospitals from Detroit's major health systems to Spectrum Health in West Michigan, MidMichigan Health in Midland, War Memorial Hospital in Sault St. Marie and the veterans hospitals in Ann Arbor and Battle Creek. 

Every county in Michigan now has a "substantial" or "high" rate of COVID-19 transmission — levels at which the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend people should wear masks indoors in public, or outdoors where social distancing isn't possible.

Cases are up significantly since early August when fewer than half of Michigan counties had substantial or high rates of spread. 

On Wednesday, Michigan initially said it added 4,494 COVID-19 cases and 59 deaths.

That pushed the overall totals to 951,192 cases and 20,316 deaths since the virus was first detected in the state in March 2020, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported. Infection numbers have climbed for weeks.

The state health department estimates less than 1% of vaccinated people in Michigan are contracting the virus.

Nearly 66% of Michigan's population age 16 and older had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine through Wednesday, according to the state website.