At the Academy Center of the Arts, the health and safety of our patrons, staff, performers, and volunteers is our priority. Our staff and Board of Trustees are closely monitoring COVID-19 (coronavirus) and its continuing impact on our community. Our leaders continue to diligently follow the guidelines and recommendations from local authorities and the Virginia Department of Health.
To further ensure the health and safety in our spaces, our staff has enlisted the guidance of Dr. Laura Gateley, MD. Dr. Gateley is a retired family physician with a career history in both “regular” clinical medicine and in both clinical and administrative positions in Public Health. She currently assists as a volunteer in the Medical Reserve Corps for the Virginia Department of Health and has been pivotal to the local VDOH COVID-19 response.
“The Academy Center of the Arts was actually a draw to both my husband and me as we decided to move to the Lynchburg area over 10 years ago,” said Gateley. “Having lived and worked in many places, we looked for somewhere with an active arts community simply as a personal stress reliever – very necessary when you work in disaster planning which is a large part of Public Health.”
Dr. Laura Gateley, MD., attended early meetings with the Academy and Virginia Department of Public Health in March 2020, as the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 crisis a Pandemic. Following these initial meetings, Academy leadership approached Dr. Gateley to serve as a member of the Safety Committee, meeting weekly to discuss ongoing health and safety needs alongside concerned community members, lawyers, and key staff members.
“The Academy has been ahead of the curve in adjusting to the dangers of this viral threat,” said Gateley. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Gateley has consulted with staff to review and respond to the Governor’s Executive Orders upon announcement and amendment.
“The Academy has enhanced cleaning procedures, added no-contact entrance screenings, and provided extensive additional signage and extra hygiene procedures. They’ve reduced occupancy severely to include six feet or more distancing for all patrons at all times, and they’ve blocked performers with instruction to keep ten feet distance during performances while also being masked whenever possible,” said Gateley.
In response to the Amended Executive Order made November 13, 2020, the Academy has mandated that patrons be masked at all times and realistically warns patrons of the risks when attending public performances. While this amendment does not reduce or impose additional limits on the venue capacity, the amendment does shine a light on the current reality of the pandemic and its widespread effect on communities like ours.
“The latest amendment of the Governor’s orders makes it harder for all businesses to operate, but most of the rules associated with entertainment venues were already being done by the Academy, and what few changes need to be made have already been discussed this past week. The Governor’s orders cannot possibly cover all possible contingencies or situations that people will find themselves in, but we are examining everything the Academy does as to medical safety, whether or not it is mandated in our regular safety committee meetings.”
In addition to existing and expanded health and safety policies, the venues on the Academy campus also play into patron safety.
“The venues that the Academy use to host events and performances are practically among the safest in town,” said Gateley.
“The Historic Academy Theater was originally designed in the pre-air conditioning age and has a natural airflow design that includes many of the advantages that the Health Department is medically trying to get when recommending outdoor venues as being more virus safe. The high ceilings and upper structures within the Historic Theatre give lots of air room and naturally dilutes the viral load when people are present.”
With all of our venues having been renovated within the past five years, the HVAC systems on-site have are easily fitted (and have since been fitted) with industrial strength HEPA air filters, which are adjustable to ensure the air turnover rate is equal or even superior to many hospital isolation rooms.
“The Academy Center of the Arts’ HVAC unit brings in fresh air constantly to the Historic Academy Theatre, it does not just recirculate the air that is in the building,” said Fred Scheib, Facilities Manager. “The fresh air intakes on the HVAC units are filtered and airflow through these units are double filtered.”
“Our HVAC uses the same type of filtration systems that most hospitals and medical facilities use, which are 2 inch pleated pre filter and then 95% bag style hepa filters,” said Scheib. “After filtration, the circulated air is UV disinfected as it passes through the supply cabinet which also has UV lights to sterilize the air. The HVAC system also has steam humidifiers that keep the building at the perfect humidity level for patrons, while areas in the sub-basement which could sometimes have too much humidity, are equipped with a dehumidifier.”
Moore’s Electrical conducts four (4) yearly preventative maintenance inspections quarterly to ensure all systems are working properly and efficiently.
“I am extremely proud to be associated with the Academy,” said Gateley. “I believe that they/we are constantly working to be an example of not only diverse and inclusive but safe business practices in these trying times. The events they have managed to present to our region this year have been not only uplifting but dependably uninjurious. The Coronavirus doesn’t care who you are or what you do, but the Academy does.”
To learn more about our current health and safety policies, visit this page.