The precipitous rise in the COVID-19 Delta variant throughout summer and fall, seemed to threaten another semester of closures, cancellations and disruptions; so far activities, performances, events and games have all gone unencumbered.
Cases of COVID-19 are still steadily increasing week after week, and have been since early July. Hospitalizations over a seven-day average hover around 1,000 patients a day according to the Minnesota Department of Health, one of the highest we have seen during the pandemic; compared to double that last November and December during the winter surge, when we did not have vaccines widely available.
While campus buildings remain mask-required spaces (with various degrees of compliance), athletes have taken back to the field, court, weight room and pool deck without their “freedom muzzles.”
“The swim and dive team are pretty good at wearing [masks], a lot of us wear them on deck until we work out too.” Sophomore Taylor Atkins said. “A lot of us are vaccinated too.”
The percentage of students and staff on campus who are in compliance with Hamline’s COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements remains a mystery. The campus community continues to operate in confidence that a majority of campus is vaccinated, with professors and administrators having more clear access to information.
Hamline theatre is returning this semester, in person, for the first time since the pandemic began; and actors have also been given the green light to perform maskless.
During the previous year Dr. Laura Dougherty directed a play in the Spring that was recorded and performed virtually. The dance ensemble performed a live-stream rather than performing in person as well.
“So, before there was real concern about the Delta variant, I had asked the Provost, what are we going to be able to do? Because this was not what we were trained to do [digital theatre]… I like the idea of theatre is an ephemeral event and I like the idea of theatre is, we’re all sharing the same space telling stories from people that are right there watching us tell the stories.” Dr. Jeff Turner, who is directing Hamline’s fall production “Our Town,” said.
“The Provost made a case to Mel, [the COVID-19 Coordinator, and the COVID-19 Response Committee] that if athletes can practice without a mask and play without a mask, particularly in indoor settings… ideally maybe we should be as well” Turner said.
While the performers will be maskless eventually, and they technically could be practicing maskless now, they aren’t there yet.
“Predominantly there are some times where an actor really just needs to kind of work their mouth around some of the language but in general we are probably 96% of the time rehearsing in masks, and I’m always in a mask, crew, stage managers are all always in masks, anybody that visits the space,” Turner said.
The show is set to run starting November 12th, there will be limited capacity and social distancing as much as possible. Actors are planning to all get tested before the show opens, and Turner said he is interested in asking attendees to present proof of vaccination at the door.