Friday Feature: Kylie Saunders


Kylie Saunders, Risk Mitigation Coordinator

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you come from and what do you do here at The Atlanta Opera?

Prior to joining TAO, I lived and worked in Ethiopia for 4 years with the Carter Center, working on their Guinea Worm Eradication Program.
I now serve as the Risk Mitigation Coordinator for The Atlanta Opera, helping to ensure everyone stays safe and free of COVID-19 while organizing and putting on live performances. My job is to assess any possible risk factors in our work, and ensure there are prevention methods and barriers in place to prevent transmission of COVID-19.

What’s a typical day like for you?

My day involves vigilantly examining all in-person interactions surrounding the work at The Atlanta Opera, and thereby possible COVID exposure events, and ensuring that those interactions are functioning in a safe way, i.e. proper and consistent utilization of masks, proper social distancing, and frequent handwashing/sanitizing, daily health screenings, etc.

What was your most memorable moment from the Big Tent? Were there any particular highlights or challenges?

My most memorable moment was safely and successfully reaching the end of the run, as it made all the hard work and long days well worth it. It is also uplifting to know that our hard work and comprehensive safety protocols will help other organizations to put on successful and safe outdoor performances for their communities.

Some highlights included hearing patrons say how safe they felt in the venue and how they greatly appreciated all of the measures and protocols that we put in place to keep them safe.

There were definitely a lot of challenges throughout the production, but that was expected since we were the first and only opera company to be putting on live performances during the pandemic. Therefore, as new challenges arose, my job was to work together with other TAO staff to find solutions to put in place to keep the show running but in a safe way.

What have you been up to while self-isolating? Any new skills, like baking bread?

I’ve been cooking and crafting a lot! I love to eat international foods so I’ve been using the time to explore new and diverse recipes; my favorite so far is Vietnamese Lime Chicken! I have also been using this time to finally go through the millions of photos I have and put them into scrapbooks!

As a public health specialist, how do you envision us navigating 2021 and beyond?

I think COVID-19 will be with us for a while and I think that for everyone’s mental health, the economy, and for life in general, we need to figure out a safe way to continue living life. The only way to achieve this will be through community-based and team efforts; everyone taking a part in owning COVID prevention strategies and ensuring that everyone stays as safe as possible.