SNL cancels live audience and plans to air with ‘limited cast and crew’ over Omicron concerns

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With record-setting cases of Covid-19 in New York, NBC’s long-running sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live abruptly announced it will air without a live audience and with only “limited” cast and crew members for its taping on 18 December.

“Due to the recent spike in the Omicron variant and out of an abundance of caution, there will be no live audience for tonight’s taping of ‘Saturday Night Live’ and the show will have limited cast and crew,” SNL announced on its Twitter account on Saturday, hours before taping.

“The show continues to follow all government safety guidelines in addition to a rigorous testing protocol,” it added.

Following SNL’s announcement, musical guest Charli XCX announced she will not be performing.

She is “currently safe and healthy but of course very sad” about canceling, she announced on Twitter.

The network has not specified which cast members will not appear for the final episode of the year, which is set to feature host Paul Rudd.

The New York Post also reported that SNL’s “Weekend Update” segment co-host Colin Jost, new cast members Sarah Sherman and Aristotle Athari, and executive producer Lorne Michaels recently tested positive.

The Independent has requested comment from NBC.

After airing almost exclusively from studio 8H in 30 Rockefeller Plaza since 1975, SNL aired three episodes remotely to finish its 45th season in spring 2020 at the height of the pandemic’s first wave in the city.

It returned to the studio for live performances with an audience last October.

The programme joins dozens of cancellations and temporary closures across New York City, as the US braces for a winter surge of the Delta variant and the emergence of faster-spreading Omicron during a busy holiday season.

New York health officials reported the state’s highest single-day infections on Friday with 21,027 new cases.

On Saturday, the state set another record with more than 21,900 reported daily cases.

New York City’s case positivity rate doubled within three days this week, according to city health officials.

After postponing last year’s “Christmas Spectacular” programme because of the pandemic, the famed Radio City Rockettes canceled the remainder of this season’s performances because of “increasing challenges from the pandemic”.

A performance of Moulin Rouge! The Musical on Broadway was canceled on 17 December because of a positive test among crew, and productions of Hamilton are canceled through 19 December “due to breakthrough Covid-19 cases.”

They are among seven of the 32 shows currently on Broadway that have faced Covid hurdles in recent days.

In the sports world, nine members of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team entered the NBA’s “health and safety protocols”, which sideline players for 10 days or require two negative tests in a 24-hour period before they can return.

Small and large venues – from Webster Hall and Bowery Electric in lower Manhattan to Union Pool and Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn – have also canceled concerts scheduled for this weekend and beyond.

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