UPDATED at 1pm PT with more details from MTV, Barclays officials New York City, which was the initial global epicenter of COVID-19, will host the MTV Video Music Awards on August 30 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed the date and venue Monday during one of his regular briefings about the pandemic. During the governor’s brief mention of the event, one of his prepared slides declared, “The event will follow all safety guidance, including limited or no audience.”
MTV confirmed the plan in a press release issued later on Monday, asserting that “the health and safety of artists, fans, industry, staff, and partners is of the utmost importance.”
Producers of the show, in co-operation with Barclays management, “have been working closely with state and local officials to implement best practices for everyone involved,” the release noted. Precautionary measures will include social distancing procedures, capacity limitations and the “virtualization of components where possible.”
The release said details and potential options will be released at a later date, “based on the science and data in New York.”
Oliver Weisberg, CEO of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets, noted that the VMAs will be the first event at the arena since the pandemic forced stay-at-home orders in mid-March. “We’re very excited to once again host this legendary night of music, and are especially proud of the impact it will have on our Brooklyn community through the creation of local jobs,” he said.
The VMAs have been held in the New York area for the past couple of years, hitting Newark, NJ last year after Radio City Music Hall in 2018.
Barclays Center has been a center of activity for organizers of Black Lives Matter protests in recent weeks and saw skirmishes between protesters and New York City police officers.
While Broadway theaters will remain closed at least through early 2021 and large-scale public events are months away from returning in New York, Major League Baseball will resume in the city (without fans) in July. The U.S. Open plans to hold its annual tennis tournament in Queens, also without fans, starting in late-August.
New York City faced the worst of the early weeks of COVID-19, with total deaths exceeding 800 a day in April, taxing hospitals and emergency resources, but the tide has turned recently. As the rest of the nation copes with a major surge in COVID-19, New York is headed the other direction, posting just 7 deaths and 391 positive tests across the state on Sunday.
The state remains the hardest-hit overall, closing in on 400,000 total cases in 2020, but California is gaining ground after recently leaping ahead of New Jersey for the No. 2 ranking among states.
As with baseball, tennis and the general reopening of the city’s economy, the VMAs are likely to put a spotlight on procedures involving interstate travel and event logistics. With artists likely to be coming in from around the country and the world, Gov. Cuomo noted that the surge in new cases elsewhere in the U.S. is “really problematic for us. We are a state that is a hub. It’s more of a problem for NY than probably any state in the U.S.”
While other public events scheduled in the city and the restart of restaurant table service have been focused on outdoor events, the VMAs could be one of the first major indoor events. While he didn’t expressly link it to the VMAs, moments after confirming the August 30 Barclays plan, Cuomo noted that indoor spaces like shopping malls are making extensive use of sophisticated air filtration systems. The filters, which he said have been analyzed by NASA scientists, are capable of filtering out COVID-19 virus particles.