TAMPA, Fla. — Even as the COVID-19 surge in Florida is starting to slow down, venues are still remaining vigilant when it comes to keeping people safe.
On Friday, the Gasparilla Music Festival kicks off in Downtown Tampa. The event organizers posted a statement online that said, "for the safety of our patrons, staff, and artists participating in the 2021 Gasparilla Music Festival, everyone 12 and over will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result to enter the festival grounds. If you are vaccinated, you may provide proof of vaccination instead of a negative test."
This follows the same requirements the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County implemented for patrons attending all shows starting Sept. 26.
"In order to, for us to get back into business, and to be able to effectively bring the arts to people. At this point in the game, this is what we have decided we have to do," Jim Shirley the Executive Director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County said. "We respect everyone's opinion, you know, and we understand if you don't agree with it, but for right now, if you want to come to a performance, this is what's going to be required."
Shirley said Sarasota County is considered by many to be one of the top destinations for art in Florida. From the opera, symphony, ballet and dozens of other artistic venues employing more than 8,000 people.
"Those are jobs, those are people who work whose kids go to school who buy groceries, and we need to keep those people employed," Shirley said. "But, if we have to go through another season like we did last year, it's going to be a different story. It'll be it can be much more traumatic on all of the arts and cultural groups, not only here in Florida, but nationwide."
About 150 organizations make up the alliance and all agree the guidelines are needed to survive.
"The arts and cultural organizations have about a $400 million a year economic impact in Sarasota County. So it's about business. And you know, it's certainly about safety," Shirley said.
With immunity growing across the state and vaccination rates on the rise, case numbers are declining.
Positive cases and hospitalizations have also decreased dramatically over the past several weeks.