Concerts and COVID: Our new HVAC system minimizes the risk!

“There is no argument for not having such a concert,” said Dr. Michael Gekle, part of the team at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg who conducted a study on COVID-19 spread at a concert. “The risk of getting infected is very low.”

What exciting news!

This was a quote from a study in Germany about the effects of COVID-19 and concerts. In a nutshell, what these scientists are suggesting is that the impact of such events on the spread of the coronavirus is “low to very low” as long as organizers ensure adequate ventilation, strict hygiene protocols, and limited capacity. These are the three pillars that our Operations team along with our Joint Loss Safety committee have been working together on a daily basis to create procedures and protocols that will keep our staff and patrons safe during this challenging time. 

We have a number of staff members who help organize the new information we are learning on a daily basis and meet bi-weekly to adapt these procedures and protocols accordingly. Myself along with our Production Manager are part of a statewide collaborative group of art professionals to discuss how we can work with the state to make a safe environment for our patrons and staff. This group has direct access to the state’s health and human services professionals along with members of Gov. Sununu’s COVID taskforce.

The Music Hall’s Facilities team worked diligently to complete phase one of our infrastructure project in which we replaced our aging 40-ton HVAC unit with a modern 70-ton unit. Along with improved ductwork and upgraded controls, the recovery rate, the rate in which fresh and current building air is pushed through the filters and our iWAVE system has increased by almost double! The system is programmed to be intuitive with increased airflow as patron numbers rise. One good indicator of this is the carbon dioxide levels in the building. We have found our base level for the building with staff and built in a progressive ramp-up to more fresh air and increase airflow as the carbon dioxide levels (and the number of patrons) rise in the building.

Along with this new HVAC and control, we have also installed an ionizing system called iWAVE. This system not only pulls particulates together to create larger material that will be caught within our medical-grade filters but also removes the hydrogen from the particulate that might have the virus within it and starves them of the food source, thereby killing bacteria and viruses. 

Our Front of House staff has figured out a great way to mitigate any potential pinch points within the building to make a safe journey to our socially distant seating configuration. With contactless ticket scanning and hand sanitizer station along the route to our patron’s seats. We have reimaged our concessions and have worked to create an online concession store that every patron has access to via a QR code placed in front of their seats. The patrons can order our full selection of concessions items from popcorn to gin and tonics. Our volunteers along with house staff will deliver this directly to your seat so you can have your cake and eat it too!

I would like to leave you with one final thought on why it is so important to continue to reinvent ourselves during this challenging time from our very own Gail Vanhoy Carolan, Director of Institutional Advancement… 

“During the summer, we’ve had more options and the cooler weather will eliminate many of those. A safe, well ventilated generously distanced space like the theater provides a possible haven for our patrons to engage, laugh, create, smile, learn, and thrive together safely.”