Sundance proposes ‘premier level of risk reduction’ in coronavirus measures, health official says |

Sundance proposes ‘premier level of risk reduction’ in coronavirus measures, health official says

Health Department schedules meeting with festival organizers to discuss plans for January event

Banners from the Sundance Film Festival in 2019.
Park Record file photo

Sundance Film Festival organizers on Monday are scheduled to present plans designed to guard against the spread of the novel coronavirus at the January event, an overriding issue for Sundance, health officials and the wider community in the weeks before the festival is slated to begin.

Betsy Wallace, the managing director of Sundance, is expected to lead the Sundance side during a meeting with the Summit County Board of Health, according to the agenda. Thirty minutes are set aside for the discussion about Sundance. The talk with Sundance is scheduled immediately after the health officials intend to provide an update to the Board of Health about coronavirus case numbers and the vaccination effort.

Neither the Board of Health nor the Summit County Health Department hold decision-making power over the set of protocols drafted by Sundance to address the pandemic. The meeting is instead expected to provide an opportunity for the Board of Health and department officials to learn about the protocols, ask questions and offer input.

The health officials have played a key role in the area’s response to the pandemic since the start. It is Summit County and the state rather than municipalities like Park City that set health guidelines and restrictions. The festival is centered inside the Park City limits, though, and City Hall officials will likely closely monitor the talks about the protocols. Park City leaders shortly are set to hold discussions with Sundance to finalize the overall plans for the festival, but it is unclear to what degree the health protocols will be addressed with Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council.

Summit County Health Director Phil Bondurant in an interview praised the Sundance health plans.

“Everything that Sundance has proposed is to the highest degree,” he said, describing the set of protocols as “the premier level of risk reduction.”

Sundance, the Health Department and City Hall are preparing for the first in-person festival of the coronavirus era. The 2020 event ended in the weeks before the spread of the sickness became devastating while the festival in 2021 was held online. The 2022 festival involves elements in person in Park City and online.

Other special events like the Park City Kimball Arts Festival and the Park Silly Sunday Market were successfully staged in 2021 after a one-year hiatus out of concern for the coronavirus. Sundance, which is scheduled from Jan. 20 until Jan. 30, is more complex organizationally than the others, is mostly held inside rather than outside and typically draws more of a national and international crowd than the others.

The talks about the Sundance health protocols are underway amid concerns about the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, which was detected in the U.S. this week.

The meeting of the Board of Health on Monday is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. It will be broadcast on Zoom. The meeting can be watched by using the Zoom webinar number of 934 5182 0697. The meeting will also be available via telephone for listening only at 1-253-215-8782.

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