Saturday Night Live, Sunday football games, hockey games, and Broadway shows are all facing major disruptions and renewed restrictions as a surge of COVID-19 infections spread across the country in December.
Likely powered by the new, more infectious Omicron variant, the concerning rise of infections and hospitalizations has prompted sports and entertainment venues to either delay or cancel upcoming events during the holiday season. The wave of closures almost mimics the nationwide shutdown of nonessential businesses and activities back in March 2020, when the country first entered the pandemic.
On Saturday, the National Hockey League announced two teams would be canceling the remainder of their games until at least Dec. 26. Saturday Night Live also announced that it would be canceling its live audience for its last show of the year due to a spike in cases linked to the Omicron variant.
The decision from the popular NBC show was a step back, after it had returned to record before live audience following a delay of its season back in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
The decision to have no audience for the show was made “out of an abundance of caution” the show announced in a tweet. Ticket prices were to be refunded.
Then, just a few hours before the show was about to air, SNL’s musical guest Charli XCX announced her performance was canceled because of the limited crew at Saturday’s show.
“i am devastated and heartbroken,” she said in statement. “i am currently safe and healthy but of course very sad.”
The new restrictions and cancellations come as hospitals are seeing a rise in patients as well. Hospitalizations have increased by 3%, and COVID-19 deaths went up by 7% this week, the Washington Post reported.
“For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm,” White House Coronavirus Coordinator Jeff Zients said during a press conference Friday.
In New York City, where there has been an alarming spike in COVID cases in the past week, other iconic performances have been nixed, including the seasonal Rockettes dance troupe, which suddenly canceled the remainder of their shows.
“We regret that we are unable to continue the Christmas Spectacular this season due to increasing challenges from the pandemic,” an announcement on the group’s website reads. “We had hoped we could make it through the season and are honored to have hosted hundreds of thousands of fans at more than 100 shows over the last seven weeks.”
Hoping to stave off a complete shutdown similar to the one that had all Broadway shows go dark for more than 18 months beginning March 2020, The Broadway League announced earlier this month it was extending its vaccination requirements to children between the ages of 5 to 11 for their audience.
Despite the new, more stringent measures, several theater companies have had to cancel shows due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, even as many of them push to remain open.
On Friday, the Broadway League issued out a press statement declaring “Broadway Is Open!” despite a rash of cancellations and breakthrough COVID infections in theater companies.
“Broadway is open for business, and we encourage you to see a show today!” the league announced, along with a new website meant to keep updated show times, as well as steadily increasing cancelation announcements.
“If an actor or crew member gets sick, we take it very seriously,” Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League said in a statement. “Our highest priority and safety of everyone working on the show and everyone in the audience.”
Yet in recent days,”Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” at the Lyric Theater, “Jagged Little Pill” at Broadhurst, and “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” at the Al Hirschfeld have canceled performances due to COVID-19 cases, Playbill reported.
The NFL on Friday also announced last-minute changes to their weekend games, pushing three of their Saturday and Sunday matchups to Monday and Tuesday instead due to a “substantial increase in [COVID-19] cases across the league.”
The schedule changes would impact the Las Vegas Raiders and Cleveland Browns, whose Saturday game was moved to Monday. The matchups between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams, both set to face off Sunday, were also pushed to Tuesday instead.
“We have made these schedule changes based on medical advice and after discussion with the NFLPA as we are seeing a new, highly transmissible form of the virus this week resulting in a substantial increase in cases across the league,” the NFL said in a statement.
On Saturday, the National Hockey League also announced that the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators would be postponing the rest of their games until the end of their holiday break on Dec. 26, affecting seven games between the two teams.
The decision was also made because of a “concern for a rising number of positive cases” within the teams.
The Saturday games between Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks, as well as Sunday games between the Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks, and Maple Leaves against Seattle Kraken, have all been postponed because of the number of players that have “entered COVID protocol” in the past two days.