Arts and Culture Sector Can Prepare for the Coronavirus in the United States

Posted by Ms. Ruby Lopez Harper, Mar 05, 2020 0 comments

Like most of you, Americans for the Arts has been watching the breaking news about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and we are seeing inquiries coming in from the field and through our national service organization colleagues. While gathering and sharing pertinent information, we are also working to understand the long-term effect on arts and culture activities from performance to festivals, touring artists, and school field trips.

We are monitoring responses and preparations and will share more information as it becomes available. You can help us and the nonprofit arts field by sharing with us at [email protected] how you are responding in the immediate and in the long-term as we see the future consequences of potentially missed earned revenue, cancelled events, and employees being affected.

There is still much to learn about the outbreak, and we hope the following information assists you in preparation for both you and your loved ones, your organization, and your community.

What We Know

Information on the impact of the virus in the United States is very much in flux. The first two reported deaths in our country happened last weekend and we are still learning more about the incubation period and subsequent preventative measures. Several cities have declared a State of Emergency and some states are considering different levels of emergency statuses, while communities across the country are working through appropriate response as more information becomes available.

Preparation and Planning

As suggested by National Association for Arts’ Preparedness and Emergency Response (NCAPER) and ArtsReady, review your refund policies and begin communicating with your audiences and stakeholders. The World Health Organization released an interim guidance document on mass gatherings that includes setting up communications with local health officials and a risk assessment that would be helpful in the coming weeks. If you do have a response plan in place, review it with staff and share it with your peer organizations.

You can watch a webinar "Prepare Your Organization for the Coronoavirus Outbreak", presented by the Event Safety Alliance that provides some helpful information around planning and crisis management.

We encourage communities to work together to organize a community response meeting to share knowledge and identify gaps. Consider inviting health officials and support services.

If you don’t have a plan in place to respond to this type of situation, the CDC has a useful tool you can use to begin your preparation. And NCAPER has a helpful tool to guide you through assisting local artists, small arts-related businesses and arts and culture organizations in the aftermath of a disaster.

Stay informed! Assign a person on your staff to keep an eye on the latest developments and news. They can sign up for the CDC’s email updates here and for the WHO’s email updates here.


In addition to being a central hub of updated information, the CDC has also posted guidance for businesses and employers. Additionally, they recommend staying in contact with state and local health agencies for location-specific guidance.

Some basic individual prevention measures you can share with attendees or program participants are:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.

    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and care takers.
  • Wash your hands often and vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • If you travel often, CDC has specific guidance for travelers here.
  • It is currently flu season, so get your flu vaccine if you haven’t already.
Dispel the Stigma

According to the CDC, “Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma towards Chinese or other Asian Americans. Stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease (for example, Chinese-Americans and other Asian-Americans living in the United States) .Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. We can fight stigma and help not hurt others by providing social support.”

Stay in Touch

As we continue to watch and prepare for the coming weeks, we will be tracking local response and welcome your questions. During times like this, we must act in concert with one another and support each other locally, statewide, and nationally.

We’re here to help! Please reach out with updates, questions, and other resources to [email protected].

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