Transcript of CDSS Web Chat: Let's Talk About Reentry, Part 5
News from Groups That Have Resumed In-person Events
Thursday, August 12, 2021
Linda Henry 0:01
Greetings from CDSS, and welcome to Part 5 of our Let’s Talk About Reentry series. I'm Linda Henry, the Community Resources Manager, and I'd like to thank every single one of you for joining us this evening.
It's a very strong part of the CDSS mission to connect and support organizers of music, dance, and song communities, especially during this challenging time. We're very aware that you are the ones working hard to keep your groups safe and connected. So this Web Chat will bring you news and perspectives from the public health world, related to latest COVID news, plus experiences from a song organizer and a dance organizer from groups that have resumed in person.
Next slide—we'll have some tech tips from Sarah.
Sarah Pilzer 1:20
Great. Thanks, Linda. So most of us are familiar with Zoom by now. But just as a reminder, there's a bunch of controls. If you're on desktop, they'll be at the bottom of your screen. If you're on mobile, they're usually in the upper right corner. And the main ones to pay attention to are switching your view. So for example, if you're on mobile, and you want to switch between gallery and speaker view, there's a button. You see it outlined on the left there of the screen. If you're on desktop, that's in the upper right corner. And next slide, please.
While we are sharing slides, you'll notice that the slide is taking up most of the screen. If you want to see more video, there's a little bar between the slide and the video. You can drag that back and forth to change the ratio of what you see. If you go to View, you can also select Exit Fullscreen or Enter Fullscreen if you want to be in full screen, that kind of thing. So that's just some tips on that.
Also worth mentioning is that we are recording this. So if you do not want your video to be any part of the recording, you can turn your video off. Please keep your microphone muted. We will be having Q&A later in the session, and what we've done is we've set it so that if you type in the chat, it will send a message to the hosts and co-hosts, and we will then be able to collect your questions and read them back during the Q&A. We have disabled general chat just because it can be distracting during the presentations. There will also be time for talking later during the breakout rooms.
One last thing is we do have a live transcript service available. In the upper right hand corner, you can click Live; you should be able to access this there. And we will enable the live transcript on at the bottom of the screen. So you'll see now that there should be some captions showing up. If you don't want to see those, along the controls at the bottom, there is a live transcript button, and you can turn it off for yourself there if you don't want to see those captions. All right. I think that's all. Linda, back to you.
Linda Henry 3:40
Okay, before we switch to the next slide, I'd like to thank a couple of other CDSS staff members that are helping in the wings. Nicki Perez is our Membership and Development Coordinator, and Kelsey Wells our Marketing and Communications Manager. And we'll also be seeing Katy German, our Executive Director. Next slide, please.
Quick overview of the next hour and a half: We'll hear from each of the guests. I'll introduce them as we go along. Then have comments from Katy, who is currently at Pinewoods. We'll send you home with some resources. And for those who are interested, we have about 15 minutes towards the end for breakout rooms.
I just have to let you all know that if we seem a little rattled, it was that about an hour before this Web Chat, three of us were in the building where the CDSS office is and there was a big storm and there was no power. So we all poured in the car and drove to Sarah Pilzer’s house where we're sitting around the table together. Life goes on.
So let's see the next slide and introduce you to our first guest. David Norton—you can see there he has vast experience with public health, as well as being a pediatrician, and a morris dancer, and a dance organizer. So David is the perfect person to be speaking with us this evening. Over to you, David.
David Norton 5:24
Thank you, Linda. And welcome to everybody. My name is David, and I use pronouns he and him. I am a pediatrician in Holyoke, which is just a couple miles from Easthampton, where CDSS is located. And I do help organize a local rainbow contra dance, and I've been a Marlborough morris dancer for quite a few years. I'm not an official public health person, but I've been on the Massachusetts Medical Society Committee on Public Health for over 20 years and former chair of it, and I, as it says on the slide, am chair of the MCAAP Immunization Advisory Committee, so I'm big on shots. Can you go to the next slide?
So a little bit about me: when I was preparing this talk, I thought you should know that I am a primary care pediatrician. I'm interested in public health, and partly am interested in pediatrics because I like prevention. So it's a lot easier to prevent, and a lot less expensive to prevent disease than it is to treat it.
I also, like most of you, love music, song, and dance, I have missed it terribly. And I would rather not do it for the rest of my life on Zoom. Also, just as two points of information, I was at Pinewoods for July 4th weekend, which was wonderful. And just across Cape Cod Bay, I was two weeks later in Provincetown, Massachusetts, which will come up later in my talk, for a week with my partner. Next slide.
In thinking about you, I made some assumptions that I've listed here. I assume that you are all people who like to sing, play music, and dance, preferably in a social setting; that this is important to you and feeds your soul; that we—you all feel we need this social participatory activity, perhaps a lot more than we realized, especially having been deprived of them for so long.
Also, as a dance organizer, I'm going to make the assumption that most of you want people to feel welcome, safe, and relaxed and happy, at whatever kind of event you're planning. And to leave the event feeling better than when they arrived—maybe a little more tired, maybe the odd twisted ankle, but you want them to want to come back. You don't want people to feel frightened, unsafe, worried, and you certainly don't want them to leave any less healthy than when they arrived.
I also realize and value the fact that we are a community. Many of us on here all know each other. We care about the health and well-being of each other and not just ourselves. Most of us do believe in science. We're looking for evidence-based guidance. And we feel responsible for people coming to our events, and we feel, I think, most of us, a larger global responsibility to help do what is the best thing during a global pandemic. Next slide.
So I thought I'd talk a little bit about COVID-19. Certainly everybody has heard lots about it. And I was going to go into more detail, but I don't think I need to. It's a novel coronavirus. For those of you who don't know, coronaviruses have been around for a long time. They cause colds and minor respiratory infections, and are pretty much an annoyance, except for a couple that have popped up in the last few years. And this one was noted early in 2020 in western China. And for most of us, there have been significant pandemics—certainly the AIDS crisis was one, and there have been other viruses, like Ebola and the SARS virus, that have caused concern globally. But this has been the first truly global pandemic of any of our lifetimes. None of us, I'm assuming, were alive during the 1918 flu epidemic.
The numbers in this pandemic are really quite astounding. There have been over 200 million cases reported. This is likely way underreported. There have been over 4 million deaths. This is also likely way underreported. I suspect the numbers, even in the United States, are way underreported because we weren't able to test early on. And nowadays what's going on is so contagious, I suspect we're missing a lot. And many deaths are not recorded as COVID deaths, even though they are likely COVID-related, or related to COVID events that may not be directly COVID itself.
We in the US and in North America are in what's being called the fourth wave. These waves come and go, and you can see them very dramatically on graphs of COVID reporting. And this particular wave is being fueled by two things: unvaccinated people, which unfortunately, we have too many of in our country without good reason; and this new Delta variant.
The symptoms of COVID, and what's made it sort of tricky is that they can vary from absolutely none at all—so there are people who are contagious of COVID and have no symptoms, to mild respiratory symptoms that can be sort of reassuring, thinking, “Oh, this is just a cold, it couldn't be COVID.” But some people have fever, some don't. Some people have progressive disease that leads to severe lung disease, oxygen deprivation, and far too often, death. But it's a funny disease. It may also present just with headaches or fatigue, GI symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, and then this most peculiar thing of loss of taste or smell, which I have certainly never learned about another infectious disease causing that. Next slide, please.
This is something I've been obsessively looking at for the last 18 months or so. If you're not familiar, there's a link at the end of my talk and on the slides. This is the Johns Hopkins dashboard, which I don't know who keeps this up; they do at Johns Hopkins, but I've watched it cross the 1 million mark. I've watched it document cases and epicenters all across the globe. And now, they are fortunately keeping track of numbers of vaccines administered also. But you can go down this every day and watch the numbers get higher in one part of the world or another, knowing that all of these numbers are likely underreported. Next slide, please.
We've known from the beginning that some people are at much higher risk for COVID disease than others. Between where the CDSS office is and where my office is in Holyoke, Massachusetts, there is a veterans’ home for the elderly where over 70 people died early in the epidemic. And this story was repeated in assisted living and senior centers all across the country and the world.
We know, too, that people who are immunocompromised, whether it's due to a disease they have or due to treatment of the disease they have—so people who have cancer, chemotherapy, people who are on immune-related problems, like certain kinds of arthritis and colitis, who have medication that appropriately dampens their immune system, also are at higher risk for getting very sick or dying from this disease. We know diabetics are; we know obese people are; people with multiple medical problems, whether they be young or old.
And certainly it's come very much to light that people of racial and ethnic minorities, at least within our country, seem to be at higher risk. And I mention this partly because this is really difficult to tease out, because these are also people who are at risk for complicating factors, including poverty, limited access to health care, and a higher rate of comorbid health problems, including the ones I've already mentioned.
And then the big group of people who of course are at higher risk nowadays are those who are not vaccinated, which includes most of my patient population, since I take care of children. Next slide, please.
And then these variants came. So when Linda first asked me to do this talk, I thought, well, this is pretty easy. Now we have this vaccine. We can't invite children to dances, but we who are vaccinated and are otherwise healthy can get together and have a wonderful time and not have to worry. And for me, that's how the weekend of July 4 at Pinewoods was. No one was sick, everyone who was there was vaccinated, and we went back to what seemed almost normal.
But around the same time, across Cape Cod Bay, a whole bunch of people went to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and some of them got sick. And I think at this point, there's over 900 related COVID infections that started based on a sort of a superspreader event in Provincetown. These were people who are mostly but not all vaccinated. Provincetown, and I've been there several times since the beginning of the pandemic, was a place which was very careful about COVID, and had only 40-some cases up through January of this year.
But vaccinated people and a few unvaccinated people and the Delta variant all met together in Provincetown, and showed the scientific community that indeed vaccinated people can get sick. Most of them didn't get very sick. I think only a few of those 900-some people have been hospitalized; as far as I know, none of them have died. Numbers in Provincetown have now gone down.
But this made all of us in the medical community stop and think, oh my goodness, we're not quite out of the woods yet. Vaccinated people can indeed pass COVID to other people, to other vaccinated people and to people who aren't vaccinated. It also showed us that this vaccine really is effective. So even though this Delta variant weeded its way through quite a number of people in this closely packed resort town, most of them did not get very sick if they were vaccinated. In fact, hardly any of them got very sick if they were vaccinated, much like people who get the flu vaccine every year.
I asked public health officials in Massachusetts why the CDC hadn't changed its definition of exposure. So as you may have heard, an exposure is considered someone who is within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. And one would think that if this Delta variant is much more contagious, that definition should change. But in fact, they feel this definition has worked really well, that no one is really setting a time clock in terms of exposure, and they're not going to change it. But that makes a difference when it comes to whether kids in a school, or people at a dance or wherever, are exposed.
The variant itself is about one and a half to two times as contagious as the earlier variants, the alpha variant that came out at first, which means that it's about as contagious as chickenpox, which right now, aside from possibly Ebola, is the most contagious disease in the world. But most people are vaccinated against chickenpox, and it’s certainly not as deadly.
We expect that we'll continue to see spread of this variant, and there will be lots of sick people. And the more of these people that get this all at the same time, allows for development of other variants. So if you have more sick people, you have the virus replicating in more people, and there is the possibility of other variants, which is why it's so important that we try and encourage people to get vaccinated, because then we can put it to a stop.
The lambda variant has been mentioned in the news. So far, it too seems to be sensitive to the vaccine, and doesn't seem to be spreading as quickly. But we're more worried about what's on the horizon. Next slide, please.
So how do we prevent disease? Well, we know this: we wash our hands, we sanitize surfaces, if necessary. We wear masks. I think most of us in this Zoom are pretty convinced that that prevents disease. But unfortunately, not all of our fellow citizens or other people in the world are so convinced. We know that social distancing works, we know that testing works. The only way to know whether you are infectious is to get tested. And we certainly know that vaccination works. Next slide.
So what do we think about social dancing, singing, jamming, getting together? I think for most of these activities, it's very, very hard to be socially distant. So you have to think when you're dancing with people, singing with them, jamming, who are you? Who are the other dancers, singers and musicians? Where is this taking place? Is it indoors or outdoors? Is it a large venue? Is it a small venue? Is there good ventilation if it's indoors? How many people will be there? Next slide.
Other things to be considered: mostly, I'm just going to discuss what I think people should think about if they're planning an event. But I do think that the way the world is today, if you're going to bring people together to do something social in what is unlikely to be a socially distant manner, that it is very important that they all be fully vaccinated.
And when I was in Provincetown, I did go to several venues where picture ID and proof of vaccine was mandatory. And I really appreciated that, and I think other people appreciated that. It made me feel safer. And I think it made the people there feel safer.
It's important to remember that at least right now, children under 12 are not vaccinated. And I think, to bring children under 12 into these non-socially distant venues, which are quite elective in nature, so not quite as necessary as school, although some people might feel it is—is probably not a good idea. But at least it's something you should think about.
Masking: I asked the public health people, and told them what contra dancing is like, and they know what singing is like. And they say it may help some, but with vigorous activities like singing and dancing, the risk probably does go up. So if you're dancing masked or singing masked in large groups, there’s still going to be stuff flying around the masks, unless they're in N95s that are fitted, fit tested, which I don't I think most of us are wearing.
Testing can be helpful. It can also be misleading. So if you test everybody who comes into an event, it's a great sieve. So most of the people who are contagious at the time will be caught. But they might be contagious and test negative, and I think that's something always to be remembered. So if you let a dozen people into a dance or a camp who were exposed a day or two before, they might have a negative test, and two days later, be quite happily shedding virus and even sick. And by that time, you would have exposed everybody at the event. They might also already be shedding some and have a negative rapid test.
You also have to think about the health of the people coming to an event. So I would certainly say it makes sense, if you're planning an event, to tell sick people to stay home, not to assume that a sniffle is allergies, or a cold. And certainly people who know they've been exposed or are very likely to have been exposed to COVID should not come to an event, even if they're feeling fine.
It's also good to think about, if people are coming, what are the health statuses and vaccine status of their family and household members. So if I go to a dance, and I pick up COVID, am I going to come home and give it to a family member who's had a renal transplant or is on cancer chemotherapy, or is taking something called Humera for their very severe colitis? I don't want to do that. I want to make sure that if people are coming to an event that I'm planning, that they don't put their family members or household members at risk.
It's also really important to look at the local incidence. So if you are in an area where there really is no COVID at the time, and where dancers are all coming from your local area, then you can feel much safer about having people gather in a non-socially distant fashion. How do you know this? You check it. There are a couple of ways to look at it, and I have some links at the bottom, but the CDC and most state Departments of Health have pretty up-to-date maps and ways to look at your local incidence, which can change from day to day, week to week. Again, it's another one of those things you can obsess about a bit, but it's very useful information. And again, you want to think about where the participants are coming from. So you know, might there be a whole bunch of people getting off a plane and coming to visit from an area that's a much higher incidence than your local incidence, and might they bring COVID with them? Next slide.
This is taken directly from the CDC website. So in July, they came out and said that fully vaccinated people can participate in many of the pre-pandemic activities, which I would assume, include contra dancing, singing in groups, that they should still wear masks indoors in areas of substantial and high risk. So when you go to the CDC website, you can look at maps of the United States, at least, by county. And they have four gradations of risk. They have high risk, substantial, moderate, and no risk. There are also some deceivingly low-risk-looking areas on the map, at least of the U.S. But if you drill in on those, it turns out a number of them, especially in the Midwest, are areas that are not reporting numbers, which is kind of scary, but they probably just don't have the public health people or funding to do that. And hopefully that will change over time. They tend to be the more rural areas.
The CDC does say that if you're in those areas, you should still wear masks indoors if you or your household members are immunocompromised, if you have other health risks, or if there's other people who are unvaccinated. And they also say, which is different than a few months ago, that fully vaccinated people, if they are exposed, should wear a mask. They can go out; they don't have to quarantine, but they should be tested immediately if they show symptoms, and if they have no symptoms, they should be tested three to five days after an exposure. Next slide.
This is just an example of the CDC website. So I had Kelsey just pick a county, so this was looking at Kalamazoo County in Michigan, but you can zone in and look at all the different counties, and as I mentioned, the blue areas in Nebraska and Wyoming are not necessarily really low; they might be areas that don't have reported data. Next slide.
So what do you do? I had so hoped, as I mentioned, that in early July or end of June, when Linda and I got together, I was gonna basically say, you know, “If you're really sick, or if you're not vaccinated, you should stay home, but otherwise, it's finally going to be safe to do these things.” But I think that a level of caution right now is probably in order. Is it really the right time to hold large-scale social events that we can't say are socially distant?
And I think it's really important to acquaint yourselves with your local, state, and county, or if you're in Canada, I guess, territorial, public health departments. We have a really good one here in Massachusetts. I hope other states have such things available. But they’re a wonderful resource. They want to help you prevent disease. So they’re there to answer questions. Most of them are keeping up their websites really quite accurately. They're trying to provide vaccine and testing widely and free, so that it's accessible.
I think if you're going to plan an event, you have to have a game plan, if something happens. So are you going to keep track of the people who come to your event, so that if someone does come down with a case, you can do contact tracing? Do you know what you're going to do if you're holding a longer event and a case happens during that event, like a camp? And again, keeping an eye on news and updates from reliable sources (and not just Facebook) is a good idea. Next slide.
Linda Henry 26:48
David, one more minute.
David Norton 26:51
Yep, I'm almost done. So one number I hope you noticed on that Johns Hopkins dashboard was that 4.5 billion doses of vaccine have already been administered. There's only 7.9 billion people in the world, and everyone under 12 can't have had a vaccine. So I think that's really good news.
I, in my own practice, am noticing vaccine rates increasing. I think people are hearing about the Delta virus and are finally figuring out that maybe it might be a good idea to get a shot. And the public health person I've been most in touch with at the Mass. Department of Public Health said this may not last so long, this Delta variant, because people are getting vaccinated more and it's spreading so quickly that that means that there will be fewer people susceptible in the community. So Delta moves through like a tidal wave. It's going to get everybody. And they're going to be vaccinated, but not in the way they want to be, if they live to talk about it. Anyway, nice to talk to all of you, and good luck. I want to dance and sing as much as the rest of you.
Linda Henry 28:03
David, did you have one more slide?
I don't think so.
Okay, so those lists of references. Okay.
Oh, the references are there, yeah. I did include the two articles, one about Provincetown just because I found it sort of interesting, and another one early on in the pandemic, on the super-spreader choir practice, which you probably heard about.
Linda Henry 28:33
Yep. Great. So I hope all of you have been putting your questions into the chat. And Sarah now will be moderating this portion.
Sarah Pilzer 28:44
Yep. We have received quite a number of questions already. If you do have more, please keep sending those my way. Just put them in the chat. But to start off: David, do you know what number of cases per 100,000 would qualify as severe exposure risk from the CDC?
David Norton 29:05
Severe exposure risk. That I don't know, I would have to look that up. You can probably tell by clicking on the numbers on that chart.
Sarah Pilzer 29:17
Great. Let’s see, one sec. Someone has mentioned they're going to start requiring vaccination for their dancers, but obviously, some dancers have young children who cannot be vaccinated. Do you have recommendations about what to do in those cases?
David Norton 29:42
You know, I'd have to say, as a pediatrician, I probably wouldn't bring them. I think it's just not a good idea right now, to bring children who might be carrying COVID, or who might get it, into a place that they don't need to be. Again, that may vary, depending on the level in your community and who is coming to your dance. And we know that children up till now have not passed this on. But I'm sure you've heard the news that just because of who's susceptible right now, children are making up a larger percentage, a larger burden of the people who are sick with COVID. And we're seeing that in our hospital here locally.
Sarah Pilzer 30:27
This is a question about masks. I've heard opinions attributed to medical practitioners that cloth masks don't protect people from the Delta variant. Is that a reasonable statement? Even if masks aren't sufficient for dancing or singing events, what about normal life situations? So mask types?
David Norton 30:51
Yeah. So I think the news that is coming out is that cloth masks are not as good, the scarves that you pull up over your face are not as good, and that if you really want to be protected, either using—and even the loop masks that we use most of the time in the office are not as good, but they're better than a cloth mask. But the KN95s are better and N95s are the best.
Sarah Pilzer 31:18
Great. Is there a value of square feet floor space per person that would be regarded as safe for indoors? So six feet, etc? That kind of thing?
David Norton 31:30
That's a good question. I can't answer that officially, as a public health person, I would say socially distanced, in our country at least, has been listed as six feet away from each other. So if you have the right square footage, but you're all going down a contra line, I think that sort of makes it less valuable of a number.
Sarah Pilzer 31:53
Great. So we just talked about masks not necessarily helping with close vigorous activities. That was specifically indoors. If you're outdoors doing these activities, does that change anything?
David Norton 32:09
Well, it's probably better doing them outdoors. But if you're wearing a mask, and you're twirling around with someone contra dancing, it's hard for me to think you're not going to be sharing whatever you're exhaling and that person is exhaling, to a certain degree.
Sarah Pilzer 32:28
Here's a question from the Montpelier dance community. “The Grange Hall, where we normally hold our dances, has upgraded to an exhaust fan that will provide six air changes of the space per hour. We are considering holding a concert, not a dance, over Labor Day weekend. If we're not able to hold the concert outside, they may need to move it inside. In that case, should they consider requiring masks for that event?”
I think I would. Yeah.
What metrics would have to change, and to what degree, for you to consider return dancing to be a reasonable risk? Do you have a sense?
David Norton 33:09
That's a really good question. I guess I don't know right now. I want there to be a much lower incidence of the disease around, and I want to be able to vaccinate more people. So, you know, I like the fact that we are right now in a lower incidence county, but that's been going up, as it has almost everywhere across the country. And, yeah, I don't think I can answer that right now. Because we don't—you know, we decided last night in planning our local dance to cancel the next one. And we're not sure what we're going to do about October, but we're gonna wait and see what people a whole lot smarter than me come up with.
Sarah Pilzer 33:56
There's been a couple of questions along this line, that English dancing is less vigorous than contra dancing. Is there any difference in your mind about the different risk factors for something like English, which could be a little bit more distant and not quite so vigorous as contra?
David Norton 34:14
Sure, I think it's a little bit lower risk. Whether that little bit lower risk… I think it's all a bit of a gamble. So yes, if people in a room are doing something that doesn't cause them to breathe as heavy and move around as much and exhale as much, is definitely lower risk. And if you add masks to that, it's lower risk again. There's not no risk. And I don't know that any, you know, when I go to the grocery store, it's not no risk. And when I travel or or get on an airplane, both of which I've done, it's not no risk. But you kind of pick and choose what is lower risk.
Sarah Pilzer 35:03
Asking for a little clarification on the previous question about cloth masks, there's different types of cloth masks. Would it be different if you had, you know, you mentioned a single layer scarf versus a triple layer woven cotton mask. How do those differ from each other in terms of safety?
David Norton 35:25
So I can't comment on specific materials, other than they have come out and told us within the medical community that we're probably better off wearing N95 masks if we think that we're around anybody who might be exposing us. So I think for personal safety, that's ideal. And the KN95 masks are also pretty good, and they also fit pretty well. And all these other beautiful fabric ones are nice. If there's a filter in them, they're probably better. But I don't know that anyone has studied really well, which kind of cloth masks are better, what kind of fabric, etc.
Linda Henry 36:03
Sarah, we have time for one more.
Sarah Pilzer 36:06
Okay. Can you comment, or do you have any sense of the timeline for when kids will likely be able to be vaccinated?
David Norton 36:19
So our public health officials are telling us that they're hoping for September or early October. I'm chomping at the bit.
Linda Henry 36:30
Okay, great. I'm sure there were many unanswered questions. And we are now taking a look at the transcription after each Web Chat and finding the questions that haven't been answered, sending them to our guests, and posting those answers on our website. So we hope that all of you will have access to your answers to your questions at that point. So next slide, Kelsey.
Our next guest is Bruce Baker. As you can see here, he has been singing for decades and rounding people up to sing and have fun together. And Bruce has a lot of experience with what he's calling the hybrid song circle in Seattle. So take it away, Bruce.
Bruce Baker 37:26
Okay, Linda, thank you so much. Welcome, everyone. And David, thank you so much for that guidance. You know, we all look for that perfect compass that will steer us a given way, and it doesn't exist. It comes down to a matter of judgment and good sense, and we use that information. So thank you for that.
Yeah, as a singer and songwriter, what we like the most is being able to get together in close situations, doing that close harmony, feeling the resonance of someone beside you. And it clearly isn't possible. Our song circles used to meet indoors. With rare occasions, we would be outdoors. And so it just isn't rational to restart that unless it's outdoors. And in fact, we are expecting another week, we're going to do that with the Sunday song circle being a hybrid situation, outdoors with a hybrid.
Living rooms are notoriously small. There's no control over ventilation. So it really makes them a fairly poor choice for a venue until we wrestle the virus that we're working with. There are ways to get around it.
So back in April, what I started was with a Wednesday noon session, Gather and Sing, that is hybrid. I'll show a little bit more about it. And it was cast from the beginning, the second week of April, as a post-vax experience. It's in a public location, we can't entirely control the people that come in from afar in the park, but we are, by sheer nature of it, distanced on picnic tables and so forth. And it's by Puget Sound, so there's always a breeze. And that makes it a pretty safe situation.
There are some people that either practically or for health reasons are hesitant to engage. And that's where the beauty of a hybrid session comes in. And until Delta came along, we were hoping to do more and have that reentry, but I think we're all pretty much backing off of that now because of virulence. One of my friends, in fact he's in the picture on the last slide, did get a breakthrough infection from the Delta variant. So it's something we take pretty seriously.
Masking for singers, masking and singers is just not a really desirable thing. You talk to most singers, they don't like to do it. Watching the facial expression and the lips is a very key part of singing together, and you take that away and the enjoyment is not the same. You gotta put up with it. Yeah, sure, we will.
From an online standpoint though, there was serendipity in going online, and that was that we went from maybe a dozen people meeting weekly since 1972 to a group comprising maybe four or five countries in a typical evening, and 18 states is a fairly typical number, and 40 or more people. The same is true for Portland and a number of other circles I've been in. Portland, likewise, is done parallel: in-person events, post-vax events. Bainbridge Island, likewise, is done in person, post-vax, smaller events, all of these are outdoors. And so no one has gone back to the traditional, you know, in a living room.
When we would be inside, like the local Senior Center, which is a once-a-month, or had been, they're not opening the doors to us yet. And so the venues, as we all know, are a very big determinant on what we can and can't do. Next slide.
So for the outdoor, I decided that I would tackle the very most difficult first, in a post-vax experience outside. And so I've been able to do this with good sound quality, just using my smartphone. Got a Samsung smartphone, and minding the settings, using a mixer, and everything powered by smartphone battery chargers. So it all works well off the grid. And people say it gives a good listening experience. And the omni microphone actually picks up everyone singing together. So people report even from islands far away that they like the sound from it.
You gotta have an external speaker. And you do need to include people from outside. So when you’re asking for requests, make sure you look at the phone. And it's also important to have a co-host so they can help with entry and that kind of mechanics, which is just virtually impossible to do when you're sitting there with guitar or autoharp or some other instrument, and the phone is six feet away from you or more. Watch out for all the things that roadies do. Next slide.
This is just a real quick slide. You can look at it later. But this is how it hooks up. And believe me, it's really complicated, until you think about the speeds and feeds on it. And it is important to split out the microphone and the speaker from your smartphone. USB speakers don't work terribly well. I've tried. I'm sorry, not USB, the Bluetooth. Next slide.
Okay, some more details. And I recommend, if this is something attractive to you, go back and look at the details in the presentation online. And if you have a question about it, hit me up. But the one thing that I have as a real firm thing is that I refuse to carry more technology than I carry instruments. I won't do it. So this is all pretty light, it works, you can get—I get weeks of use out of just say a power pack that is used to charge a phone. And the mixing console was really important because the omni condenser mic, which is good for picking up, well it picks up kids playing in a playground too. But you gotta have phantom power. So that little Tascam mixer was a beauty. Next slide.
Operational: Make sure—this one is counterintuitive, but you show the speaker with a slash if you want the external to work. Original sound is not persisting, I know it is not—you slash the speaker through and that turns on your external sound. The original sound has to be re-enabled every single session. That's not something we do on our desktops. And then make sure you have a sound spotter. People that have good ears that are calibrated that you work with, so that you don't spend too much time on it.
And because you're outside, and it's quite likely a public place, set up a code so that people can go shoot a picture with their phone and find out who you are. It's like, “This looks like fun; tell me more.”
Managing noise is a good thing to do, just based on where you set up shop. And as I said, make sure you include the online component. Next.
Okay, hybrid rooms is a different concept altogether. And I've done this not with singing, but on a book review. Had a traveler do a book review on a kayaking river in Africa. And you've really got to watch—The nice thing about standards is there’s so many to choose from. When you're doing projectors and widescreen TVs, make sure ahead of time that things match. Sound is really important to give good quality.
And here's a subtle thing: If you're going to have someone else helping you in that room, and I do recommend it, make sure they shut off their video. Why? Not because you don't want to see him, because you want to cut the load on the network that is doing the uploads. So the way the internet is set up is exactly the opposite of what we want. It’s set up for download speed, not upload. And guess what? We're doing the opposite. So be careful about how you set up, and look at the WiFi settings. I do think that all the venues that are hosting events like this, that will have hybrid rooms, smart rooms, are going to have to probably up their game by segmenting wireless. I could maybe write something up afterwards. But I've done this for a couple of churches.
Make sure you get a camera. Again, cameras are different. And so put it on a tripod and have a camera handler. You know, assistants are a good thing to make it work. So on hybrid rooms, you know, if we start now, we can collect things for little or no money as people are upgrading to 4k. So start it now. Next slide.
And then the setup, it's really picky. Again, being inclusive on the online participants is important. And so watch your feeds for that. I talked about the next point there, in terms of watching your wireless or your internet feed. And then make sure you have a sound spotter out in the field somewhere that can communicate with you, perhaps even by text message, but is able to tell you the whole thing is collapsing, or it's great, or a little more sound here or there. But you have to decouple that because otherwise it's quite disruptive. And I think I am finished.
Linda Henry 47:38
Is that the last slide? Great. Well, thank you, Bruce, for lots of great information. And for all of you listening in, this will be available on the CDSS website, so you can go back and look through the PowerPoint. So Sarah, over to you for the Q&A.
Sarah Pilzer 48:00
Great. I haven't seen any specific questions come in for Bruce. Does anyone have questions on setting up hybrid rooms? Feel free to throw that in the chat.
Linda Henry 48:13
Or anything related to song groups in person.
Katy German 48:20
Could we just very briefly describe, what is the definition of a hybrid event?
Bruce Baker 48:28
Yeah, a hybrid event is where you have people in the room and people remote at the same time. In other words, they're participating in the same thing. If they’re singing, then they'll have a turn in the circle when it comes around. It could be that they're 3,000 miles away, but you want to unify that experience as much as you possibly can. Could be they’re in another country. We've got Australia that's solidly in the game here.
Sarah Pilzer 48:59
Great. Any other questions, also, just about what it's like to be a song group leader during the pandemic would be great questions to ask Bruce. Here's one! Ah, they’ve started coming in. Do you have any delay problems?
Bruce Baker 49:17
Yeah, good question. With using Zoom, and we've tried other platforms as well, what I’ve found is that by and large, they're too complicated for the average singer to grab hold of. The very problems keep you from singing simultaneously. So what will happen is that in a hybrid, you're having people sing in the room, and the people online have to mute. Your sound spotter will make sure of that. So sadly, it doesn't work that they can actively participate. So it's a little better than how it's been for the last year and some, but we're still not back to where we were.
Sarah Pilzer 49:59
That makes sense. There's a lot of great technical knowledge in this portion of the talk. Here's a question, “If somebody wanted to learn more about all of this technical stuff, where would you suggest they start educating themselves? Where did you learn how to do this?”
Bruce Baker 50:16
Okay, so I'm an engineer by training. I'm also a roadie, a sound guy. And I'll write this up. I have written up part of it on Seattle Folklore Society’s site as well. There’s also sound setting information. But I'll go ahead and put this out and send it to CDSS, and you can post it.
Sarah Pilzer 50:38
Wonderful, thank you. Somebody wanted to know what the URL to participate in your events are? Because it sounds fun. So maybe we can get that too.
Bruce Baker 50:47
Yeah, that's Seattle Folklore Society, seafolklore.org, under Virtual Events.
Sarah Pilzer 50:58
Great. And there's a comment here that Lake City Contra is also doing hybrid events. And they've had a couple, and there's actually one coming up tonight at 7 to 9pm Pacific time. Login info is at seattledance.org/contra.lakecity.
Oh, yeah, Matt’s a good guy. Yep.
Linda Henry 51:18
Sounds great. Okay, I think we'll move on. But thank you so much, Bruce, for sharing all of your experience. Next slide.
Everybody, welcome David Macemon. As you can see, he has many years of dance experience and experience as a caller. He has some hot-off-the-press news from all of his experience with his group resuming in-person dancing. Okay, David.
David Macemon 51:57
Yep, that nasty mute button got me. So thank you, Linda. Thank you, CDSS. And let's just hop to the next slide. We'll get going on this.
So Portland Country Dance Community has been sponsoring and hosting dances since the 1990s. We have a weekly English series, we have a two- to three-time a month contra series. We have contra weekends, we have English weekends, a grand and glorious place to dance.
We were missing dancing during the lockdown. And I'm part of the English committee. I also help with the English ball that happened once a year. And back in June, we had our normal committee check-in time that we've been doing that. And our check-in happened right after that glorious message in June when the CDC said, if you're fully vaccinated, in a room full of fully vaccinated people, you're okay without a mask.
And man, was that an amazing message at that point. And as we were talking about, “Gee, do we even consider starting dancing?”, we had voices on the committee that said, “Listen, we believed the CDC when they told us to mask up, wash our hands, to socially distance. Why would we not continue to believe the CDC when they say: fully vaccinated, unmasked, enjoy yourselves?”
Well, we knew it wasn't that cut and dry. But that certainly started a conversation for us. And we went through and said, “So, how do we make these decisions?” Well, we did a bunch of research. And I think the thing that we did was most important is we surveyed our community.
We sent out a survey, had some qualifying questions in it, because our English dance distribution list has about 200 names on it. And our community is small enough that we know that all 200 of those people are not active. So we wanted to be able to filter some of the responses. So we said, “So in the before times, how actively—how regularly did you dance?”, and gave some questions there.
And then we went through, saying “So, when do you think you might be comfortable to start dancing?”, and gave some timeframes. And then we asked some questions about “What’s your comfort level about vaccination? Do you think everybody could be vaccinated? Do you think there could be a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated? What about masks?” Masked, unmasked, whatever.
And to be honest, we were taking the lead that we saw from CDSS and Pinewoods, and we were not only surveying the audience about their comfort level, we were also trying to figure out: what is the total available market for us? And so what our survey did for us was give us the capability of saying our biggest—the most members of our community that we can serve, I think this is what we should do. And the “this is what we should do” is hold events where we see proof of vaccination. And at the time, remember, this is back in June, when we were doing this, masking was optional.
So great. So what we did was, communicate with our community. We had multiple emails, we put together big documents that are referenced in the references and resources a couple slides from now that described our policies, the decisions we made, the materials, links on why we made the decisions.
One of the things we came across that I thought was valuable putting on an event was an article I believe in the Washington Post. This is also linked in the big document in a few slides from now, that asks: “So can we ask, can we as normal people ask somebody what their vaccination status is?” And the answer based on that article is yes. We're not medical professionals. We can ask to see proof of vaccination.
The other thing that this article said was, and we've heard this from various lawyers is, “Can a private organization holding public events disqualify people from entering, for example, by not not having a proof of vaccination?” And the answer to that was yes. In fact, you can go so far as for this type of a private group, public events, you can decide not to invite anybody that you want to, unless you're violating ADA and religious exemptions. That, you know, we cannot violate federal law.
So we felt confident by saying “No, the only way you can get in is proof of vaccination.” And at that point, masking was optional. And fortunately, we didn't have any trouble with that.
Now, we had a bunch of infrastructure that we wanted to put into place. So one of the things we did for our first dance, we had no idea how many people wanted to come, we've got a small hall, it wouldn't be fun for anybody to have 75 people in. So we created a lottery. And we sent out the link, we had people fill in an online form.
And gee, guess what? We asked for name, phone number, email address, and a couple other things, and that started our contact tracing information. Because, as David said before, we feel safe, we know there's risk. If somebody shows up positive after the fact, we want to be able to tell everybody that was at the dance what is going on.
So we started gathering contact tracing information. We're not doing the lottery anymore. But we do have an online registration and a paper registration. So the first time you come to the dance, you provide us that information.
We developed the waiver that at a very high level basically says, “Unless we do something really dumb, you're not going to sue us.” We see the proof of vaccination, we decided not to make a copy of that in any way. There are any number of real and assumed responsibility for keeping that data safe. We didn't want to deal with it.
So what we do is we mark, we've got a list now of people that we call fully confirmed. And what that means is we've seen the proof of vaccination, we have a waiver, we have the contact tracing information. If somebody of course fills out something online, we've got their contact tracing information, but when they show up to the dance, we have them sign the waiver, we give them a check mark; we see proof of vaccination, we give them a check mark. The next time these people come to the dance, they come to the door, they pay, we check them off because they're fully confirmed.
PCDC has that information. We talked with the other local contra dance communities before we started doing this. They too are bought in, so we now have a central database of dancers that are fully verified or confirmed; folks we've got partial information out of; and then there's anybody else that needs to provide that information.
So when the rest of the world here in Portland opens up, I go to an English dance, I have my information there. I go to a contra dance, that information also resides there. There is a bit of coordination that has to go into that, but well worth it from a user perspective.
Our first dance was July the seconds, and man, was it a glorious time. The first dance started, you could see the joy in the dancers as they were moving. And you could see the joy above their heads as they were dancing as well. And so on to the next slide, please.
And then Delta happened. So we started hearing about Delta. CDC changed their guidelines a few weeks ago that said, “You know, you probably should wear masks.” That coincided right before a PCDC board meeting where we talked a lot about this. And one of the outcomes of the PCDC board meeting based on the CDC guidance was: all indoor PCDC events require proof of vaccination and masking. And of course, within the words, it's masking worn properly, appropriately, an appropriate mask, just not a bandana, all those types of things. So we went forward with that, and three weeks ago tomorrow was our first masked dance.
In addition to that, what do we do? We talk to our community. So we sent out another survey to ask the questions: “We're going to be masked, how do you feel about that? How do you feel about dancing in Delta terms?” And what we found out is there were a few community members that said, you know, “For personal reasons, for health reasons, I really can't dance with a mask. I understand why you're making this policy, I'm going to miss seeing you,” and we're of course going to miss seeing them.
Same thing with Delta. We had people that were comfortable dancing with masks, but with the unknowns of Delta, they don't feel comfortable dancing with Delta. So we're going to miss seeing them at the dance.
And we've got a lot of people that just are unsure how comfortable they are with this whole thing. So we'll see, coming forward.
And just as an addition to all of these things that are going on, tomorrow, the state of Oregon, mandates for masking indoors for everybody take effect. So I thought we as an organization did a pretty good job leading what was going to be happening by requiring masking indoors.
So that's where we are. PCDC as a whole, the contra dance committee is talking about reopening. As we heard the question to David, we have talked about the differences between contra dancing and English dancing, the difference between a close swing and an appropriate right-hand turn or two-hand turn. We all are aware of the risks, we all are aware of minimizing the risks any way we can with masking.
And part of my personal opinion is with the state now saying we have to be masked, indoors, no matter where we are in public settings, ideally, that's going to lower the risk for picking up a Delta variant at the grocery store and bringing it to the dance. Are the risks zero? No, but we're going to keep taking the temperature of our community. And honestly, if the dances get too small, then we'll probably take a pause. But we're cautiously optimistic, I guess is what I'd say.
Linda Henry 1:03:52
Sounds great, David. I think there's one more slide.
David Macemon 1:03:54
Yeah, one more slide, which is the resources. So this big document we put together—when you download this PowerPoint slide, that'll take you a link to it. It talks about, you know, here are the policies. Here's a bunch of facts, you know, questions that we expected to be asked about, and then a bunch of links, including that article I talked to. And then also in the document, I just pulled some of these things out, are the CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated. The cool thing about this, the address of this link has remained the same for the last three or four months, and the information underneath it changes. And for what it's worth, this is what Oregon Health Authority is saying. And then Multnomah County, which is where our dance is held.
Linda Henry 1:04:45
That's great, David. FYI, to our participants, the PowerPoint that will be posted on the website will have live links, so you'll be able to find them there. Okay, Sarah.
Sarah Pilzer 1:05:01
Great, lots of questions coming in. First off, what did your group do about the religious or medical exemption issue? How did you handle that?
David Macemon 1:05:12
Well, we don't have a choice. ADA and religious exemptions are federal law. Now, within friends, you know, all 180 of us that are here, we know as an organization we have to provide, we have to facilitate those people, the individuals with those concerns, if they show up to the dance. Now, we don't advertise that. We don't want to present a workaround to somebody who would just like to come to the dance, and they're not being vaccinated because they don't believe in vaccinations.
At this point, nobody has shown up to one of our dances saying they can't wear a mask, they can't get a vaccine because of ADA issues, or they can't wear a mask or get a vaccination because of their religious beliefs. Now, before we had to mask up, what we would have said, if somebody had showed up, saying “Great, the way we can accommodate you is you must wear a mask.” Now if they show up, they have to, by rule, they've got to wear a mask. But at this point for our small dance community, we've talked about how we'll deal with that, but we haven't had to deal with that.
Sarah Pilzer 1:06:38
Great. And can you just clarify? In particular, when you're talking about your organization, this is the English dance specifically, in Portland?
David Macemon 1:06:47
Yeah. We're part of Portland Country Dance Community, and the dance that has started is the English dance. The contra dances are still talking about starting.
One of the reasons they're still talking is because the hall we use for contra dancing is being renovated until September. Had the hall been available, I suspect contra would have also started in July.
Sarah Pilzer 1:07:10
Great. Once people are vetted in your system, would you then check IDs as they came to subsequent dances? Or is the community small enough that you just knew who had been vetted already?
David Macemon 1:07:23
Well, we've got the list with names, and the English dance is small enough that the people sitting the door know everybody. I suspect when the contra dance started, we’re gonna—and a big dance for us is 40 people. So just to qualify that, with the contra community showing up with you know, 120 people showing up, I can't talk with the committee, but I'm pretty confident that the vetted list will be there. Somebody will have to show an ID, unless their personal friend is who's ever sitting the gate. Find the name on the list. Yep. You're vetted? If not, here's the paperwork. Put on your mask. Have fun.
Sarah Pilzer 1:08:02
There is some concern about there being a black market or fake vaccination documents. Did you talk about that at all? Has that come up for you?
David Macemon 1:08:13
We talked about it a little bit, and you know, what are we going to do about it? We can't tell whether there's odd fibers in a piece of paper or not. Or when somebody took a picture and Photoshopped their name on somebody else's. I mean, if—Yeah, I'm just gonna say nothing I can do about that, if people are that willing to lie like that, and put other people at—Yeah. [laughing]
Sarah Pilzer 1:08:44
Is there a computer program that you have found that is easiest for this type of data collection? Or what are you using?
I use Excel. [laughing]
Good old spreadsheets.
David Macemon 1:08:55
Yeah, good old spreadsheets. I used Google Forms for the lottery and the online registration that dumps into an Excel spreadsheet. I just have printouts at the desk. We check everybody off. We have sheets that are turned on, we have waivers that are turned in. I come home within the next day or so, I say, “Excellent. Here are the 35 people that showed up at the hall last night.”
So I've got the contact tracing not only on the paper, but I've got that in a spreadsheet. I've got—here's who people showed up, showed the information. And then we have a master list that everybody, all the rest of the dances, will put their information into. And then as the other contra dancers start doing, they’ll start drawing from there. I keep English segmented because I've got my 40 people that I know, and I can pull from the other list as needed.
Sarah Pilzer 1:09:53
Great. There's a couple different questions about attendance. Did you see a change in attendance when you started requiring masks?
David Macemon 1:10:01
Yes. It was a combination of things. We started requiring a mask, and it got hot. Our hall is reasonably air conditioned. And we got feedback saying, “Gee, we're—” and the masking was also at the same time, masking is required because of Delta. So yeah, we've taken a hit both weeks that we had masks, and we’ll know more tomorrow night. And these are things that the committee is looking for.
But we specifically had people saying, well, we have people show up the first week with masks. One of our dancers has a breathing problem, and he says, “I'd love to be here, but I don't think I can do it.” We had other people say “Not going to dance with masks.” We had some people in the survey said “Not going to dance with a mask,” and what did they do? They showed up the next week and had a grand time.
So you know, we'll keep an eye on it. We know—we've got a feeling for how small attendance can get before it just becomes a challenge for both the dancers and the caller. And so from a community perspective, we can see doing a pause there, or if another lockdown comes in and the state of Oregon goes back to restricting attendance, at that point, it’d probably be the right time to take a pause.
Linda Henry 1:11:19
Okay, Sarah, I think that's a good place to take a pause, so we'll have time to hear Katy. And I know there were lots of questions that didn't get answered. So again, we'll be passing those on to David after the Web Chat, and doing what we can to get those on the website for everybody. Thanks so much, David.
Really, really helpful. So now, we will hear from Katy German, the CDSS Executive Director, about her experiences in person, in Pinewoods.
Katy German 1:11:57
Sorry about that. Hi, everybody. Hello, from Pinewoods. It is a little bit—there will be people coming and going here and there, we'll do our best to stay focused. But I wanted a chance to talk through, you know, so often we host these events, and we're talking to organizers with as much empathy and understanding as we can. Certainly some of us on staff are organizers for local dances in our, you know, regular lives. But this is the first time where we've really had to make some pretty big programmatic decisions and changes in pretty quick succession with our camps.
And I know that there are a few folks who are on tonight who are organizers of week-long events that occur later in the year. So I'm sure that that a lot of—there are questions that are specific to week-long events.
One thing I want to start by doing is differentiating between the decisions that David Macemon and local organizers need to make for a one-night event, versus decisions that we're making for a week-long event. Some of the differences that I think are obvious are the local events are pulling from a relatively small geographic area, whereas a lot of our week-long events, weekends certainly, too, pull from a larger geographic area, and that just by nature shifts the amount of risk that we're talking about.
So clearly, I'm at camp, we are at American Week. And we decided to go ahead with this week. And I think I think we've been lucky, we've been very, very lucky. And what I hope you take away from this is not that we figured out how to do it, but that we are not doing it after this week. We have canceled the rest of CDSS’s season, and Pinewoods has canceled the rest of the entire Pinewoods season.
And it's not because someone got sick. It's because we are looking at what is the cost, the financial and labor cost, of trying to do this responsibly and safely, and how does that balance to the benefit? And yes, it is blissful to be at camp and singing together and playing music. But it was very, very stressful, it's been a very stressful past two weeks.
So this week, we put into place every measure we could think of to make this a safe gathering, which included requiring vaccination from the get-go. We moved half the dining room tables outside, so we spaced out the tables and how many people were at each table. We, Pinewoods put more handwashing stations and hand sanitizer all around camp. We are not using any indoor program spaces. All of our program spaces are open air pavilions or outdoor.
We required, in addition to being vaccinated and showing proof of your vaccination, we required negative COVID test results. They could either show results from the days leading up to camp, or we had rapid antigen tests on site. Pinewoods Camp sourced in bulk rapid antigen tests so that we could do this.
We required masking, even though we had a full wave of negative tests. With people coming into camp, we required masks for the first three days. Let me tell you, I never knew I could sweat this much in this part of my face. It was—we did it. It was fine. It's not pleasant to contra dance in the 80s in humid weather in a mask.
So we did that for three full days. And then we issued a round of rapid antigen tests for the entire camp community, three days into camp. The reason we did that, just as David Norton explained earlier in the call, it's entirely possible for someone to come into camp who has been—who has contracted COVID, but their viral load is still so low, that it doesn't trigger that positive result on the antigen test. But if you wait another couple days, and you do a test again, you would catch more people, the sieve, it’s a finer sieve the second time through.
Again, still not 100% sure guarantee. But we were extremely relieved when the second round of tests came back negative. And we allowed people to take off masks at that point. We figured the risk was down to a minimum amount, that we no longer needed to require that as a program provider. For this community, this fixed number of people that have been together and not going and coming from camp for many days in a row.
We also will, we did this last week, we'll do it this week, we will ask everybody who's here to leave as if assuming that they've been exposed to COVID while they were here, which means we're asking them to do follow-up tests a few days after camp, to isolate as much as they can, to definitely mask up and maintain social distance if they have to go out. But if they can quarantine, all the better.
It's a lot to ask. It's a lot of work. And it's not something that we feel is responsible to continue. So just thinking through the cost, if you're looking ahead at maybe putting something in place for a week-long event later in the year, assuming the number of cases start to go down, if the Delta variant wave moves through quickly, I think we could—I think it is reasonable to continue planning for winter week-long events. But you need to start thinking about the labor and the cost associated with having rapid antigen tests on hand.
So right now, when we—when PCI Pinewoods Camp ordered the tests, we were able to source them for about $12 per person. What that means is for every full wave of antigen testing, that's about $1,500 for 140 humans in camp. So if you're looking at an event that's bigger than that, thinking about $12 per person, that's a pretty big financial investment to be thinking through.
Right now, it's getting harder to source rapid antigen tests in bulk, because everybody wants them right now. So I think that's also something that could be a challenge in the coming months, if you're considering doing it.
But I—it's been a journey. And the presidents of both Pinewoods and CDSS are at camp this week, and we are all in agreement that we're very lucky to have made it this far, and to do this week, but it's time to stop for a while again until it is safe. Until the number of cases goes down. And oh man, who was it who said—David Norton, that you're holding your breath until the children get vaccinated? I think that's going to make a huge difference. So um, yeah, I'll just stop talking there and open it up to questions if there are any.
Linda Henry 1:19:37
Have time for maybe two or three questions.
Sarah Pilzer 1:19:41
Here's one: Given that COVID appears to be with us for the long haul, how do you think you will decide what an acceptable level of risk is going forward?
Katy German 1:19:56
That's a great question. What we're basically saying is, to us, despite what we did this week and no, even after, even after being informed by the experience of dancing and masks, if the CDC is recommending masks in large groups, we will not be doing in-person programming. It's easy for CDSS to say that because, right now, our in-person programming is all clustered in the summer. So we've ended our season, we are used to going dormant for a while in in-person programs, and we can focus on our online programs instead. But yeah, if masks are required, we're not interested in doing more in-person programming right now.
Sarah Pilzer 1:20:46
Were masks required for outdoors, like when you weren't gathered with other people, and if so, what led you to make that decision?
Katy German 1:20:55
Yeah, well, we consulted with David Norton and actually a number of other health professionals and epidemiologists. And functionally speaking, contra dancing outdoors is no less risky than being indoors with others. Just the amount of exhaling, the proximity. So we decided to require masking in all programmed activities. If people wanted to be distanced more than six feet apart for singing or jamming, that was okay. But anything that required being closer than that, we asked everybody to mask.
Sarah Pilzer 1:21:41
Here's one. How do we reconcile the portion of our community that isn't following recommendations? What do we do to bring them along with us? Do you have thoughts on that?
Katy German 1:21:54
I wish I knew. You know, I think, I mean, to some extent, when people started resuming programming in late May and June and into July, I think that was a big, I think a lot of us made the decision to require vaccination. And really, a lot of organizers were fantastic at leading the way and prioritizing community safety and making sure that was part of their messaging. And so I think, I honestly think our community has done a really good job of, kindly and gently, just encouraging people to, if they are able to get vaccinated, get vaccinated.
Linda Henry 1:22:35
Okay, Sarah, I think we'll need to stop there to fit in a few more things before the breakout rooms. So thank you so much, Katy, and participants, do keep putting your questions into the chat.
I want to be sure you know about something that was a result of our last Web Chat. We created something called Reentry Resources for Organizers, and it's available on the COVID section of our Resource Portal. And it has sections of information from the guests from that Web Chat: a lawyer, an epidemiologist, insurance, etc., and also a long list of considerations for reentry. And after this Web Chat we’ll include a section from our public health input. So it's a great place to go on our website for reentry information.
Also, we have an online events calendar and information about supporting gigging artists. Next slide.
And these are many different ways that CDSS is here to support you, organizers. Check out the portal. Shared Weight is a listserv for organizers. We have grants available to support you in events and projects to boost your community. These Web Chats, of course. CDSS News has articles for organizers. And if your group is having a challenge that you would like to talk with someone one on one, that someone would be me, and send me an email at email@example.com. Next slide.
Tomorrow we'll be sending out one more message that includes a form for you. We would love to have your feedback. All of the feedback we get from our Web Chat participants is very helpful for planning future Web Chats, and you also have a chance to request topics for future Web Chats.
As I mentioned before, on the website, you'll be able to find the video and PowerPoint and other materials from this Web Chat. Please feel free to share it with friends that couldn't join us tonight.
And we are, these days, not making plans very far ahead for a topic for our upcoming Web Chat, because things are changing so fast. So please do keep in touch with us. It's my job, especially, to be supporting communities and providing resources. So please feel free to be in touch with me about any ways that CDSS might support the very hard work that you're all doing that we appreciate so much.
So, we now have about 15 minutes for breakout rooms. Do choose someone right at the beginning to be a timekeeper, to make sure everyone has a turn. And if you could do a quick go around of just briefly sharing your name, location and group, and one question or a challenge that your group is having. So if each person could have a chance to do that, and see if others in the group would have suggestions for you.
And again, the unanswered questions, just put them in the chat. And we'll do our best to provide answers for those after the Web Chat. So you'll have about 15 minutes, we'll all come back together for one more farewell.
Linda Henry 1:26:34
So hello, everyone, as you're coming back to the Zoom room, we're gonna have just a few more minutes to say farewell, wave at your friends across the country, and just enjoy seeing all of these people who are part of the big community of dance organizers. Feel free to unmute yourselves, and we'll have just a couple more minutes to say our farewells.
Sarah Pilzer 1:27:11
I’ve also turned chat on. So if you want to turn chat on to send direct messages if you have a friend you want to message, go ahead. Or say hi to everybody.
Linda Henry 1:27:24
I also especially want to thank our three guests, the two Davids and Bruce, for all the time you put into your wonderful presentations. And thank each one of you participants for being part of this Web Chat. Please take with you the message from CDSS that we are here to support you, especially during this very crazy time for dance organizers. So be in touch and let us know about particular things your community might need. And we very much appreciate everything that you're all doing. So stay tuned for news of our next Web Chat. It's great to see so many people from such a distance.
[Various speakers say thank you]
Linda Henry 1:28:38
You're very welcome.
Unknown Speaker 1:28:50
Thank you. We're all sharing difficult issues.
Linda Henry 1:28:57
Yes. And we're all learning from each other, too. So we're definitely all in this together. Any time your group figures out something you would want to share with other groups, that's another thing you can let us know.
Will do. Thank you all, and we hope you'll all be dancing soon.
Yes. Whenever it seems like it's safe.
It's good to feel like we're all in this together.
Linda Henry 1:29:31
Yes. Yes, it is.
That’s for sure. This has really helped in that way also
Yeah. There are very many of you out there. I think for this particular topic, there are some organizers that aren't necessarily at a point of wanting to be thinking about reentering. For our last Web Chat, there were 550 people that registered, so that shows you that there are so many organizers that are just scratching their heads trying to figure out how to navigate this. So you are not alone.
Unknown Speaker 1:30:07
Well, Delta threw a real wrench in the plans.
Linda, I was not able to be here from the beginning. Will the chat be available afterwards?
Linda Henry 1:30:20
Sarah, do you have an answer to that?
Sarah Pilzer 1:30:23
We will—we were just having questions in the chat, and we will make those available. There wasn't general chat in the beginning. So we will make the questions from the chat, and what answers we can get for them, available afterwards. And the recording will also be available of the whole Web Chat, so you can catch what you missed.
And I want to go out—this is Bruce, I want to go out and thank the organizers of this—was no small feat. Especially hot on the heels of a power failure that forced a total reorg. Any of you that have ever done this kind of thing before, I would put that in the Herculean category. Well done.
Sarah Pilzer 1:31:05
Well, I think your tip specifically, Bruce, about—there's four of us right now all sharing my WiFi. So hopefully our video is not going to crash, but—[laughter] All right. 30 more seconds for goodbyes, and we’ll end the meeting. Thank you, everybody.
Thank you. Thank you, CDSS.
Unknown Speaker 1:31:26
Hats off to CDSS.
Thank you, and good to see everyone.
Sarah Pilzer 1:31:35
Alright, see you next time.
Bye bye, David.
Chat Bar Log, May 19, 2021
This Web Chat operated a little differently from most. We turned off the general chat feature and asked the community to submit questions to us directly. Below is a list of participants' questions, sorted by topic.
Chat Transcription—Legal Questions
Can individual contra groups run dances with vaccinated dancers, a legal release form signed for each dance and..?? Will that work to restart dancing??
Can we require a signed waiver of covid liability?
This may be answered later, but can you require proof of vaccination OR a recent negative test result?
Is it true that a 501(c)(3) org cannot have members only events?
If masks are required and participants take off their mask for the event, is it legal to force them to leave if they refuse to mask?
Should we let people know in advance that there may be people present who are not vaccinated?
If we require vaccination for a small/medium size dance gathering, can we simply accept their statement that they are vaccinated rather than checking their vaccine record card (which could be counterfeit)?
Is it possible for unvaccinated attendees to somehow agree to assume liability for Covid cases possibly contracted at event?
Can we set a limit to the number of unvaccinated people who attend?
Doesn’t the ADA requirement allow an individual to state to someone in capacity of responsibility of the particular condition so as to accommodate need?
Please clarify: is asking for vaccination status legal for public events?
Can you discuss a dance caller’s liability if he is hired for a family party or an other function?
How large are potential damages or fines for violations?
My dance group is sponsored by a county recreation department. They have said that we cannot require proof of vaccination, and we meet in their facility. Is there any way that we can require it for our dancers?
Can someone sue an organizer personally for excluding them?
What about the privacy concerns of keeping physical or electronic records of a waiver containing medical history?
Can we save names and dates of attendees’ vaccination?
There are individuals who do not believe Covid is a risk, will not get vaccinated, and will not wear a mask; in other words, will not accept accommodations. Those may falsely claim they are vaxxed. What do we do in this case?
Can you require a caller or band to be vaccinated?
If we ask for proof of vaccination, can we note the answer for future reference so we don't have to keep asking them?
If we were to require waivers, would they have to apply specifically to each event, or could we have a waiver that would last for some time—a month, 3 months, indefinite?
Is requiring masks of people unvaccinated a violation of ADA because it would reveal that they may have a medical issue?
If sponsoring county agency sets mask policy and what screening is allowed, do they absolve our group from legal risk?
Can we require contact information in order to gain entry into a dance to be able to follow up with contact tracing if necessary?
Is requiring masks of people unvaccinated a violation of ADA because it would reveal that they may have a medical issue?
What type of location is a church social hall?
We’ve seen outbreaks this year in public places like gyms. Are there any examples of places like that being held liable?
Making exceptions for medical reasons makes sense, but what about religious claims?
Can you talk about privacy and other obligations if we are making people show us their vaccination cards?
If we were sued, what kind of law practice would we be best served by? Litigator? Other?
What if you are a caller/band who is paid with gate receipts by a third party organizer?
Guidelines at national, state, county, local levels—follow most restrictive or follow the guidelines closest to local level?
Can we require a doctor’s note for people who can’t show a vaccine card?
Chat Transcription—Insurance Questions
Do you know of specific cases where an organization was sued or the liability insurance was needed?
How much does D&O insurance cost (just very generally for a local affiliate)?
Does the cdss insurance cover legal costs in defense of a lawsuit?
If we get insurance later is the premium prorated based on the number of months of coverage?
Do you recommend Directors and Officers insurance to help protect organizers and volunteers as the attorney suggested?
How does your insurance relate to settling out of court?
If you are sued and lose are you reimbursed the entire amount of the suit or just the person’s medical expenses?
Does losing a suit include a negotiated settlement that includes a payout to the suing party?
In a normal year, approximately how many CDSS affiliates are actually sued? Total number of cases?
Chat Transcription—Epidemiological Questions
If a group decides to ask for proof of vaccination, are there ways we can include people who are not vaccinated, while keeping them safe.
Is it okay to allow wind players (flutes/whistles, clarinet) at an outdoor jam?
How do the CDC recommendations apply in contra dance situations—indoors, people holding each other and breathing into each other's face, and changing partners every dance, for 3 hours indoors?
What's the difference between public transportation and other indoor settings?
I'm in an area with very low vaccination rates (~40%). Should we have a target range of community vaccination before we start doing dances?
Should we space dances out (more than a month between) so we can know if infections resulted from the event?
Does the extremely close contact with many different people that is central to contra dancing indicate a higher level of risk than other “normal activities”?
Other than CDC—which are guidelines- is one's State the end/legal authority on whether we can require vaccination—or proof of vaccination? Our state is very conservative. Who in state government would generally be the person? Attorney General?
Do wind players have the same status as singers?
Up to now, there's been quarantine requirements for people who are potentially exposed. What is the latest advice on how long one should quarantine after a potential exposure, before, say, visiting with an immunocompromised relative?
Is there a recommendation for how long a hall should be cleared before other events happen in the same space?
Chat Transcription—Questions for CDSS
As different groups open up, should we report any metrics back to CDSS for tracking how things are going, and if so, what metrics: Live music yes/no/mixed; how many in attendance? Masks req'd yes/no; and so on?
What risk is CDSS taking by requiring Vaccines for Pinewoods?
Can CDSS share a template for a waiver?
How about using this time to figure out how to get black and latino people involved in our organizations? There are over 400 people on this call. ALL those who have shared their screen are white or white passing.
Transcript of CDSS Web Chat: Let's Talk About Reentry, Part 4
Addressing Legal and Other Burning Questions
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Linda Henry 31:30
Greetings from CDSS, and welcome to part four of our Let's Talk About Reentry series. This evening we'll be focusing on legal questions and other burning questions, and we are very grateful to know that there were literally 550 registrants for this Web Chat. So we are aware that it takes a village. And there are 550 people in this village this evening so we're grateful that you're all here. I'm Linda Henry, the CDSS Community Resources Manager, and other staff members that you'll be seeing are Sarah Pilzer, our Operations Manager, and Katy German, our Executive Director, and our newest staff member, Joanna Reiner Wilkinson; and behind the scenes, we have Nicki Perez, our Membership and Development Coordinator, and Crispin Youngberg, our Office and Registration Manager. We'll start with some tech tips from Sarah.
Sarah Pilzer 32:40
Thanks, Linda. So, in this age of Zoom, many of you are already familiar with these screens, but just in case you need help navigating around: If you're using a desktop version of Zoom, you'll see on our shared screen here, the left side will reflect what you're seeing; if you're on mobile, it looks a little bit different. But the thing to notice is where the controls are, either at the bottom of your screen for desktop, or in the upper right hand corner for mobile. That's where you'll find things like turning on the chat. If you turn on and off the participant tab, you'll be able to find your own name in the participants list, and if you haven't already, feel free to rename yourself, including your pronouns. And the other new thing that we've started doing is there's an option for a live transcript if you need subtitles. There should be a little—in the control center there's an image of a closed caption and it says “Live Transcript.” If you click on that and then select Show Subtitles, it'll show the subtitles. If the subtitles are already going, you can click there to turn them off if you don't want them.
While we are in screen sharing mode: If you need to adjust the size of the screen, there's a bar in the middle of the screen that you can drag to the left and the right, that will either make the slides bigger or the video portion bigger. You can also adjust whether it's full screen or not by going to the upper right hand corner if you're on desktop, and it'll say View, where you can switch between full screen or speaker view or gallery view. But while the screen is being shared with our slides, those videos will all show up on the right hand side. So the other thing to note is that right now we have set the chat so that it will only go to the presenters, so throughout the presentation you can put your questions into the chat, and we'll be receiving those for our question and answer portion. And then later on, after the formal presentation part, we'll open up chat so that folks can say hi to each other. I think that's about it. Back to you, Linda.
Linda Henry 35:01
Okay. So the purpose of this Web Chat is to support organizers of music, dance, and song communities, as you are making many decisions and doing your best to navigate through this time of emerging from the pandemic. So in order to support you, we're offering this Web Chat, which will include a panel with a lawyer, an epidemiologist, our insurance manager from CDSS, and a dance organizer. We're also working on a reentry checklist that we'll be providing after the Web Chat sometime next week. We decided to wait so that we can incorporate any input that we get from this Web Chat.
So we know that this is weighing heavily on your mind, there wouldn't be 550 people signed up otherwise. And we're very much committed to doing what we can to help you through this challenging time.
Sarah Pilzer 36:08
One thing I forgot to mention is that we are recording this, so if you prefer to not be on video, please, just turn your video off, thanks.
Linda Henry 36:20
So, next slide please. Oh, I'm sorry, the one before. Yes, I wanted to give us a glimpse of the format of the Web Chat. So we've had some introductions, and next we will hear from our Executive Director, and then we'll have a little over an hour for our guests, followed by giving you some resources to take home, and we'll have the breakout rooms at the end this time. And the purpose will be to meet in small groups, to see if any of you still have questions that haven't been answered, and see if people in your group might have suggestions for you. So next I'll turn it over to Katy.
Katy German 37:13
Thanks, Linda. I'm really, really glad that so many people are here tonight. Thank you to everyone who's tuned in before and come back. It's really, it's been a really exciting couple of months. The last time we were together talking, the Pfizer vaccine was just coming into the picture, and we spent some time on that. We really, really appreciate all of the questions and feedback that came after that Web Chat, and we worked today to put together a panel that addressed as many of those questions as we are able to answer. But as you know, I hope as you know, we're not going to be able to answer all of the questions, and we are not out of this pandemic yet. We are moving forward, and that is exciting, and we are going to be okay, but we still have a lot of work to do. So to all of you who are still carrying this mantle of organizer for your communities, even though everything is uncertain and changing all the time, I want to say thank you for everything that you've been working through, because the conversations and the questions are exhausting, but your communities are going to come out better because of how much you care about this and how much time you're putting into it. So if you haven't been thanked enough locally because we haven't had chances to get together and have people pat you on the back, please know that we at CDSS really, really are in awe of your dedication and your passion and your work. So, let's continue working together. I'm really excited about our guests today. I hope that we can answer some questions. And I want you to please continue letting us know when we haven't answered your questions, or when you have new questions that come to mind. Because these Web Chats are useful because of you. So thank you again for joining us, and I'm going to turn it back over to you, Linda.
Linda Henry 39:30
Great. So now we welcome our first guest, Ann Marie Noonan. There we go. Ann Marie is from a law firm in the Boston area, and she has her own PowerPoint to share with us.
Ann Marie Noonan 39:49
Good evening. I'm just gonna try to pull this up.
Thank you for bearing with me for that moment. So nice to meet you all. My name is Ann Marie Noonan, as Linda indicated, and I'm here to talk a little bit about the emerging landscape for your spring programming. I specifically titled it Spring Programming because as Katie mentioned, these are really emerging issues that seem to be changing literally as we speak. I know when I first got contacted, I had some different points that I won't be bringing up now. So with that, let's start talking about—here we go.
So, as Katy mentioned and as I'm sure most of you know, the CDC has obviously approved a vaccine for children over the age of 12 and adults, and in many areas of the country it's now readily available for those who want this vaccine. So questions are starting to arise: Should organizations require their participants to show proof of vaccination before, in order to partake in an event? Unfortunately, this is not a simple yes or no question. The EEO, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has indicated that employers may require vaccines in the workplace. So many people think that might carry over. What many employers are finding, though, is the answer is not so simple.
This ends up being somewhat of a case-by-case analysis based on a lot of circumstances, and so we're going to spend a bit of time talking about those, because it seems a lot of questions are related to this.
Organizations are going to have to assess a number of things in making these decisions. They're going to need to look to the CDC guidance, which has recently been updated, as well as state guidance. Some states have updated theirs in the last few days, others are still working on theirs. Local guidance is also going to be important, as well as any governing agencies that might oversee the type of events that you are having. For instance, you know, I have a child who's involved in soccer, and her soccer league has updated their rules, I think, three times in the season that started three weeks ago. So you certainly want to be paying attention to any of those agencies to make sure you're on top of their requirements.
One of the big questions becomes, what is the outcome of this gonna be? What will happen with the legal standard? Well, unfortunately, because this is an unprecedented circumstance, I don't have a good legal standard for you. The other thing is, the types of issues that we're going to talk about, which relate a lot to accommodations and some first amendment rights, we don't have good case law as it relates to COVID vaccines, but even in those circumstances, in the more traditional realm, it really does involve a case-by-case analysis based on facts and circumstances. And so we'll go through a little bit of that as we talk more this evening.
The other thing is you may want to talk to your insurer. I know the organization has made an insurer here to present a bit, many insurers are indicating very clearly that COVID spread at an event may not be covered by your insurance, and I'll leave that to the insurance experts. But one of the other things you may want to look into, as we talk about some of the risks with requiring a vaccination, is reaching out to your insurance to find out if you have coverage for discrimination-type claims, and then assessing, for your organization, where the greater risk and liability stands, as well as where your organization wants to take a stand.
And so with that I want to talk a bit about what happens if somebody refuses to provide proof of vaccination. Well, if somebody just says to you, “I don't have proof of vaccination, because I don't feel like getting vaccinated,” you could probably exclude them from your event. However, if somebody said “I can't get vaccinated for medical reasons,” or “I can't get vaccinated for a sincerely held religious reason,” you may need to consider providing an accommodation. And for the most part in this presentation, I'm going to talk about the medical assessment. What I will say very briefly is on the sincerely held religious beliefs, the government does not want to spend a lot of time guessing whether someone's religious beliefs are sincerely held. So if someone indicates that they have a sincerely held religious belief, you [...] circumstance to presume that that is accurate. And so you would go through a similar analysis as to what we're going to go through today, related to those who have medical issues.
And so one question that immediately arises is “Do I need to worry about the ADA?” You know, we're going to charge admission, or we have tickets, or you have to be a Member to come to one of ours, or you have to sign up for a certain program. And so we're going to walk through that. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act provides protections for consumers against discrimination for disability. It's very similar to Title I that many of you are maybe more familiar with, related to the employment setting. In order for it to apply to an organization, not only does the organization have to be a public accommodation, and that's a business that provides services generally to the public, and typically falls within—there’s 12 listed categories. And so we will walk through the—what I've done is sort of pull out those that I think are most interesting for this group: Lodging—some of you may be providing some overnight programming; places of entertainment—theaters, concert halls, maybe where some of your gatherings may happen; places of public gatherings—conference, convention centers, auditoriums; places of recreation—places of exercise and recreation, gyms; places with food and drink—restaurants and bars; and then I've included the last one: places of education—elementary, secondary, and even private schools.
The reason I've included those is: one thing that's very important to know that even if you look through these and you think, “I'm not sure that I am a public accommodation, and therefore I don't think I have liability,” if your event is being held at a place that is a public accommodation, then what you need to know is your landlord, or the owner of that property, has the same obligation to ensure that they are not discriminating based on disability. And so they may not call that out, and they may not talk to you about that. They not may not raise that issue for you when you say “We're going to hold an event here and we're going to require vaccination.” They may say “Fine, here's our standard template,” which is likely to include a provision called indemnification. Which means if they are sued, they will expect you to either take on the case for them or take on their liability at the end of the suit. And so it's important for folks to think about this, whether the event they are holding would constitute a public accommodation, or whether it's at something that would constitute a public accommodation.
And one other thing is I know that there are some camp organizations involved. In looking at the American Camp Association’s website, it appears they think that camps are likely public accommodations, at least your standard typical camp, and in Massachusetts here where I'm from, the US attorney has actually in prior cases treated even private camps as public accommodations. So what I think the takeaway here is: it's a broad protection, that sort of provides very broadly.
One question that I know comes up is, “What if I'm a private club? What if we're not open to the public?” And so private clubs are exempted from these protections. What is important to understand there, though, is the definition of private club is very specific and very narrow. It has to be a membership organization, in which the members control a high degree of the operations of the organization. There has to be a selective process for joining and becoming a member, and there are often substantial membership fees charged to be part of a private club. So it's not just, “We're going to call ourselves a private club,” and it's not something that maybe even is a private club in many people's minds, but something very specific under the law.
The other thing to know is that private clubs can actually lose their exemption under the ADA, if they're open to non-members as a place of public accommodation. So if you think about, “Well, we're going to go to a country club that is a private club, that you have to be a member to typically go to the country club or golf club—but they have a hall that they rent out, right, for non-members, so you don't have to be a member to rent out their hall. Anyone could do it for all sorts of different events. That hall that they are renting out for that purpose is no longer exempted, and becomes a public accommodation, and therefore, again, they as a landlord would be subject to ADA requirements, and so would you, therefore, as using that space.
So, why are we even spending all this time talking about public accommodations? Under the ADA, if somebody poses a direct threat, you can determine whether or not you need to provide them an accommodation. And turning back to the EEOC, it has indicated that COVID can be a direct threat, because it causes serious health injury and/or death to individuals.
So the question becomes: Can that risk be reduced to a manageable, appropriate level? And that's really where I think a lot of the focus turns on. And this is a changing benchmark. You know, early on in the pandemic before there was widespread transmission, it was somewhat easy to tell, maybe, where somebody, well it was easier to trace where somebody might have gotten it. Well, there's been widespread transmission. I know we've got somebody who does contact tracing so I'll leave this bit to her expertise, but it became more difficult for a period of time. And as we start to hopefully emerge from this, it may become again a bit easier to track where somebody got it.
The other thing is: a vaccine, right, may reduce the risk of people contracting it. We know that that's the whole purpose of the vaccines, and so therefore, whether or not COVID remains a direct threat may depend on how widespread it is, and whether or not most of the population is protected from it. There again, if there was some sort of treatment for COVID, that also may impact this analysis, so that becomes a bit of a moving target.
The other thing sort of becomes, if COVID is a direct threat, which it currently is designated as, what can you do to limit spread? I know this is contrary to the beliefs of many of the organizations here, but you could choose to say “If you aren't vaccinated, you're only going to be able to dance with those you come with.” More broadly, you could require masking, you could do temperature checks, you could do symptoms administration clearance before entering. For longer term programs that might be lasting for a few days or weeks over the summer, maybe you require proof of COVID negative test, some quarantine before attending, or even testing after arrival if they're going to be there for a few days.
So these are important things to keep in mind when you're doing your analysis. Keep in mind the federal, state, and local laws. You're likely going to need to follow whatever is most restrictive.
Good ventilation always remains a good idea. Regardless of whether or not you're requiring vaccinations, outdoor events are safest. Screening at the door may be worthwhile, and we are still suggesting you get names at the door or from ticket sales, to ensure that we have names for contact tracing. And so it's really, again, an individual analysis as to whether the ADA is going to apply, and what steps you might need to make to give people the ability to come in as an exemption to that vaccine requirement.
One of the other big questions that comes up, though, is, whether you require vaccination or you don't, what happens if somebody gets COVID after attending one of your events, and will you be liable for it? This is a really unprecedented question, in which we have a little bit of lead time in the employment sector, where employers are seeing an uptick in litigation related to this. I've talked about whether or not you can actually prove—proof of where someone contacted COVID may become difficult. I think your best bet is to take all efforts so that you could have a quality defense against any claims of that.
So I think being in compliance with any state mandates, which have certainly changed—when I started writing this, you know, you were still required to wear masks indoors—that significantly changed over the last few days. But you do want to be staying abreast of that, because that could change again, as, you know, we head into winter. And so you want to stay on top of those. You also want to be doing all the things that we've talked about, such as potentially requiring masks for those who aren't vaccinated, maybe requiring a screening at the door. And one of the things that I do think is really advisable is to have attendees acknowledge the risk and sign a waiver about potential liability. And so, these are the types of screening measures, and I think we've covered that already.
I know we're starting to run a little short on my time, so what would you put in a waiver, and are they 100% bulletproof?
There's no way to fully answer that, because this really is untested waters, but they can't hurt you and at the most they can help you. And so, it's a brief introduction, and I think there is a handout related to this that shows an outline of this, a brief introduction about what COVID is and how it is spread; some general information about prevention, vaccines, hand washing, masking; a questionnaire about symptoms. It may be, you know, “Have you been vaccinated?” If the answer is yes, “Are you symptomatic?” The answer is no, and that's all they have to fill out. If it is no, maybe they have to fill out some more specific example answers. And then an acknowledgement that they're taking part knowingly and voluntarily, and that they're assuming that risk. And if they're going to waive any rights to sue you, and release you from any claims should they contract COVID following your event; and again, whether or not they're able to prove that is going to be questionable, and whether or not a court, when they remove some of the restrictions that have been in place, I think that also may change the landscape of whether somebody may or may not be held liable. But that's sort of yet to be seen as we're just starting to enter that area. And so I think I'm close to my time but I did want to open it up, Linda.
Linda Henry 54:29
Ann Marie, you can have a little more time if you need it, okay? The time is fine.
Ann Marie Noonan
So I think that's really what I had prepared, so I don't know if there are other questions that we did want to open it up to.
Linda Henry 54:57
So now we'll have about five minutes of Q&A, and you can put your questions into the chat. Sarah will look them over and read one at a time, and Ann Marie can answer the ones that she has answers for.
Sarah Pilzer 55:20
Great. So, you've covered some of this already, but if a group decides to ask for proof of vaccination, are there ways we can include people who are not vaccinated while keeping them safe? And I'm not sure if that's a question you can answer, but...
Ann Marie Noonan 55:35
You know, I think “safe” is a relative question here. And so I think it goes to: are you able to reduce it to a manageable and appropriate level? And so I think that's where assessing some of the options that have actually been in place while we didn't have vaccines, that includes maybe allowing them to enter, but we may, you may want to cohort, those who don't, who come in together who haven't been vaccinated; you may want to require masking; you may want to require some distancing. I know that is probably not possible in these events, but things like masking, hand washing, symptoms screening: I think those are probably your best bets for managing the safety risk of having them enter. And again, I think, as more and more people are vaccinated, that risk assessment also probably comes into play, if you were to have, say, 100 people at your event and 80, 90% of them were vaccinated, you know, is that a safe risk? And that's something that needs to continue to be assessed, and organizations need to decide what they're comfortable with, again, looking at their state and local requirements and any sort of additional bodies that might oversee your organization.
Sarah Pilzer 56:47
This is maybe a follow up to that: Is requiring masks of people who are unvaccinated a violation of ADA, because it would reveal that they may have a medical issue?
Ann Marie Noonan 56:58
That's an interesting question. What I will say is that all throughout COVID, there has been also an issue with requiring anyone who is—there are people who, for medical reasons can't wear a mask, so then that may become a question of having an indoor event, whether or not they, you know, if they can't mask, as well, whether or not you're going to admit them. And again, that becomes a real individualized assessment, I think, based on—if they were the only one without a vaccine, maybe it's not a big deal, and so it's hard to give a blanket answer to that. Whether or not having them wear a mask would violate their ADA requirements, without doing any research, I'm a little bit hesitant to answer that question. What I would say is, I certainly have been walking around outside in the last few days, and I think different people have different comfort levels, and so many people continue to wear masks when maybe they don't need to. I'm not sure that somebody continuing to wear a mask today would, in and of itself, reveal that they had a medical issue. It would reveal that they—right, people may presume that they weren't vaccinated. I'm not sure that that is a protected class, though, just knowing that somebody wasn't vaccinated, as we sit here today.
Sarah Pilzer 58:10
Continuing on the mask theme: If masks are required, and participants take off their mask for the event, is it legal to force them to leave if they refuse to put their mask back on?
Ann Marie Noonan 58:21
So, I think you need to—I'm sorry to continue to say this, but you do need to pay attention to whatever your state and local rules are, because it can vary from area to area. I think in many places requiring masks is still permissible, and here in Massachusetts, our governor has publicly said that private companies can continue to require masking inside if they want to, and so I think you really need to be familiar with your local rules. And then also assess why they're taking off their mask. If it's somebody who's saying they're taking it off because they have a respiratory condition that requires them—prevents them from wearing it for a long period of time, then you've got this other double-layered ADA issue on top of that.
Sarah Pilzer 59:09
Great. There's so many questions coming in, I know we won't have time to get to them all, so apologies to folks who miss out. But—
Linda Henry 59:15
I think we have time for at least a couple more.
Sarah Pilzer 59:18
Oh, definitely, definitely. Here's some questions: Are churches public accommodations? Since many dances are held in parish halls, would that fall under the public accommodation designation?
Ann Marie Noonan 59:34
Unfortunately I did not do any searching into churches, and the reason I'm hesitant to answer that is that churches fall into a very special category. Anyone who helps operate a church may know this: that they are sort of exempt from a lot of parts of federal law, due to their church status and the separation between church and state. So that is one that I'm actually not going to be comfortable answering on the spot without doing some research. What I will say is: although they don't necessarily have to disclose it, you certainly could, I think, check in with the church to see if they view themselves as being a public accommodation. I know many churches have gone ahead and made themselves ADA accessible by putting in ramps and things of that nature, but that could be just in good faith.
Sarah Pilzer 1:00:20
Great. Is it true that 501(c)(3) orgs cannot have members-only events? Do you know about that?
Ann Marie Noonan 1:00:28
I wasn't prepared to speak about that.
Sarah Pilzer 1:00:36
Okay. No worries; we’ll skip that one. There's still some confusion about—are we legally allowed to require proof of vaccination outside of ADA? I’m not sure if—just sort of a...
Ann Marie Noonan 1:00:44
So if somebody is just saying “I didn't get vaccinated, and I don't want to be vaccinated, and I'm not going to be vaccinated, and I don't have a medical reason, and I don't have a religious reason,” then you probably are able to keep those people out. I think the question is how much you want to get into these questions with people at the door of your event. And the other thing is, like I said, if somebody says they have a sincerely held religious belief, you really can't get into a lot of questioning about that. I've met people who have said “This person told me that they had this sincerely held religious belief, I was raised in that church, and that isn't a religious belief of my church,” you don't know what their individual church believes. So it's an area that the government really has given a lot of protection to appropriately, given the First Amendment.
Sarah Pilzer 1:01:29
Okay. And so, I think there’s some folks who are confused between—there’s the piece about “You can't deny entry based on a disability,” but there's also the direct threat provision, where COVID is a direct threat, so you can make requirements based off of that. How do those interact?
Ann Marie Noonan 1:01:48
Yeah, no, that's a good question, and sorry for any confusion. So the reality is, you may be able to keep somebody out who isn't vaccinated, even if the reason they aren't vaccinated is for a medical reason. The question becomes: keeping somebody out is sort of the most extreme out of the options. Is there a way to allow them entry that reduces that direct threat risk to a reasonable standard? So that's where it's sort of this idea of screening people at the door, requiring a negative test, masking comes into play, because that all reduces the risk that they could spread COVID, if they happen to have COVID.
I think part of that analysis is going to start to become as well: how widespread is COVID in the community as it gets under more control in more places? Because how big of a risk is it that that person has COVID? As well, as more and more people get vaccinated, as a percentage of people in the facility, in the event, are protected against that one or two people who come who aren't vaccinated, you know, and I'm using very big numbers because it's just easier to do it that way—that that assessment may also come into play, that the direct threat may be further reduced just by, if most people attending are vaccinated, those who are at risk are minimal to begin with. And so if you've got that countered with masking, and this is why it is really, as you can tell, a very specific analysis on the given facts and on the given circumstances.
Great. What is our liability as a board or organizing group, versus as individuals? Could someone sue a single organizer personally if they get sick?
Ann Marie Noonan
Without knowing exactly your role in the organization, it's hard for me to probably answer that, right? I think many organizations, I will say, have Director and Officer liability. Some organizations also have volunteer and employee protections. That's something you probably want to check in with your organization to find out about. And without having more details, it's probably harder to answer that in a specific way.
Sarah Pilzer 1:04:10
Great. Let’s see, there are some questions about the privacy implications of asking to see people's vaccination cards. Are there privacy violations for asking for that as proof of vaccination?
Ann Marie Noonan 1:04:24
So it's an interesting question. In the employment context, there's a bit more information out there, I think, right now than in this context. Typically, requiring somebody to get a vaccine, or typically, requiring proof of that is medical information, that many employers are sort of advised to stay away from doing. Here, where there's been a sort of tie into why you might want to do that, you are able to sort of ask for proof of that. What you would not want is to—In giving the vaccine, you have to ask a whole bunch of medical questions ahead of time. You don't want to ask those questions. You don't want to find out anything other than yes or no, they’ve gotten the vaccine. And so you do need to be careful about it. You know, I would probably admonish about collecting copies of them. I think just having, you know, whether it's the person at the door checking, or whether you have them attesting to the fact that they've gotten it, even—and I think those are the assessments that organizations are going to have to make as we move forward, whether they're actually going to require proof of seeing it, or if they'll accept somebody attesting that they've gotten it.
Sarah Pilzer 1:05:30
My dance group is sponsored by a county recreation department, who has said—they have said that we cannot require proof of vaccination, but they meet in their facility. Is there a way that you can require it for your dancers, even if the facility has said you're not allowed to, I guess?
Ann Marie Noonan 1:05:48
That sounds like a very specific question, so I'm hesitant to answer without knowing all the details. I think if the place you're hosting it, if it's a county facility, it's probably not merely a public accommodation, but literally a public facility. And so, there's probably a lot of government decisions being made there as to what kind of events—you know, what kind of restrictions are going to be, or not, placed on that. And if you're being told you can't do it, I think you probably do so at your own risk, but not being involved in that, it's hard to answer.
Sarah Pilzer 1:06:22
Right. I think this has to do with the—is vaccination status a protected class?, but would charging different prices based on vaccination status be okay?
Ann Marie Noonan 1:06:39
I haven't heard that one yet, so I'm always hesitant to answer something I've never heard on the spot. I would probably be very careful and cautious about doing something that—I wouldn't advise a client to do that, is what I would say.
Sarah Pilzer 1:06:50
Great. There's a bunch of questions about the difference between callers and musicians who are hired to work the dance, versus the people coming to the dance. Are there differences in what you can require of the band and the callers versus the attendees, in terms of requiring vaccination?
Ann Marie Noonan 1:07:09
So that's an interesting question. I have heard a lot—I've seen a lot of commentary that if you're not requiring your employees, and in this case I'm not positive whether your dancers and your callers are employees or contractors, but I have seen a lot of guidance out there that if you're not requiring your employees to be vaccinated, you may really have a tough time requiring your attendees to be vaccinated. It seems a bit uneven. And I think if they are your employees, then you've got to go through the same analysis, but almost—in the workplace setting, which actually may, I think, have a higher standard because of people's interest in their jobs and their livelihood, I think is going to be taken even at a higher level of concern than people's ability to attend events that, while important to them for sure, are not—may be viewed slightly differently than if somebody were excluded from work because of their inability to get a vaccine.
Sarah Pilzer 1:08:04
How are we doing on time, Linda?
Linda Henry 1:08:08
We've got time for one more.
Sarah Pilzer 1:08:15
Okay. If we require pre-registration, what might we put in the pre-registration documents to mitigate organizational risk?
Ann Marie Noonan 1:08:22
That's a good question. I think the same types of things you would want to put in your general waiver, so that you could almost be having them fill out the waiver in advance. And so you'd want to make sure that you're noting, you know, what COVID is, right at a high level, it's a communicable disease spread from person to person. You would want to note that it does currently exist in the community. You might want to require them to check whether or not they've been vaccinated, whether they have any symptoms. I know travel is still on a lot of waivers, I think that's probably a holdover at this point, although, as things change, it may become more important again to be asking those questions. So I think including those types of questions so that somebody has been screened to be cleared to come. And then again, having them acknowledge that they're taking on this risk knowingly and voluntarily, and waiving their ability to sue and bring claims against you. So I think to the extent you are able to do that in your pre registration, I think that would be ideal.
Sarah Pilzer 1:09:21
Great. And then just a question of: Will your slides be available afterwards? Can we share those out?
Ann Marie Noonan 1:09:29
I have to talk to Katy, I think, about that. I'm not sure.
Sarah Pilzer 1:09:37
Ann Marie Noonan
Ann Marie, you mentioned a waiver, and it would be great if we could have a template that we could share with people. Is that going to be possible?
Ann Marie Noonan 1:09:47
So, I had provided, I think, in advance, an outline of a waiver that goes through these different things I've been suggesting you include. It's not more specific than that because where this is a national meeting and a national group, I am hesitant to provide language for various jurisdictions that I may or may not know about, and may or may not have practiced within. And so, it's more of an outline of the types of things you want to be including. So I think that is available to be shared.
Linda Henry 1:10:26
Okay. So, all participants listening now, we're gonna find a way that we can share whatever Ann Marie is able to share with us. Okay, well, thank you so much Ann Marie, it's been great to have all your input. Next we have Ben Williams, a CDSS staff member, and we'll get a glimpse of him on his slide. There we go. Ben is our Sales and Insurance Manager and has a bit to say about CDSS insurance policy that's available in relation to COVID.
Ben Williams 1:11:14
Thanks, Linda. Hi, everybody. Nice to see some of your faces. I've exchanged emails with many of you, so it's nice to see the faces behind the emails. So I just have a couple of short things to share with you. And the first and most important is that the CDSS general liability policy, which we offer to our Affiliates, does not cover any COVID-19-related claims. So full stop, not covered. And as far as I know, there aren't any policies that are covering COVID-19-related claims, at least in terms of general liability policies. The NFO policy is not covering that. I don't know of any policies that are. Policies that had, in the past, been able to cover that usually are being changed. Ours was changed this year to specifically exclude communicable diseases and COVID. So that's basically not going to be covered by any insurance policy anywhere.
We mentioned directors and operators insurance, and just so you know, that is not included in our policy. If that's something you're interested in for your organization, you can let me know via email, and I'd be happy to connect you with our insurance agent, who has been able to provide that in the past. Again, not going to cover anything COVID-19 related.
Another thing to note is just that the policy we have is a general liability policy. So that means, what would need to happen is you’d need to be sued; you’d need to lose that suit; and then you could submit a claim to be reimbursed. So that's sort of the process. What that means is, it doesn't prevent you from being sued—there's nothing that can prevent you from being sued, unfortunately. So waivers are a good idea, and that's something you should look into, but those aren't going to prevent you from being sued. They can help you in the case that you are sued.
And another thing to notice: just the dates for our insurance policy. Our insurance here runs from May 1 of this year, through April 30 of next year. So we're just sort of at the beginning of our insurance year. And you can join the insurance policy at any point through the year, so if you're unsure about whether you're going to hold events now, but it looks like you might hold events later, as long as you can give us a couple weeks heads up, we can get you covered under that policy. And so that's what I would suggest you do if you're unsure about whether you're going to be having events this year. Go ahead and wait, and just let us know in the future.
And I believe that's most of what I have to share. There is an FAQ on our website too, and I'm updating that with questions that I hear, so you can check under the insurance section on our website and see if your question has been answered there. But I'm also happy to answer some questions now. I guess I’ll just say, too, that, as Ann Marie said, you know, every situation is unique. So I'm not going to have definitive answers, but I'm also happy to—if you'd like to email me later, I can forward some questions to our agent and hopefully get an answer back to you.
Linda Henry 1:14:49
I neglected to put Ben's email on his slide, and it's simply firstname.lastname@example.org. So now we'll have about five minutes of Q&A for Ben.
Sarah Pilzer 1:15:03
Great. Questions are starting to come in. So there's some confusion about the insurance policy offered by CDSS, and whether they will cover expenses beyond the reimbursement for if you were successfully sued. So will they cover defense costs? That kind of thing. Can you speak a little bit more to that, Ben?
Ben Williams 1:15:29
I don't know off the top of my head, the answer to that question, but that's something I'd be happy to look into and get back to you on, so feel free to email me and I can get an answer to that for you.
Sarah Pilzer 1:15:41
Okay, let's see. What happens if you are sued and you win? I guess this is sort of the same question about being covered for costs for defense. So, again, we’ll get back to you on that. There's a question of if you opt in for Group Policy later in the year, is the cost prorated?
Ben Williams 1:15:59
We don't offer proration at this moment. That's in part because we've had to pay for the policy in full upfront, so we have to cover that cost. And the insurance actually is retroactive also, so it probably won't be applicable, but if you happen to be sued for an event that happened earlier in the year, you would still be covered. So we're not at this time planning to offer proration. The way that we do our pricing is by number of events, so it may be cheaper for you if you're having events later in the year, based on the number of events you'll have.
Sarah Pilzer 1:16:37
Great. Somebody wants to know, so just to compare, does the policy cover us if someone sues us after breaking an ankle on the dance floor?
Ben Williams 1:16:48
Yes, so things that aren't COVID-related are still covered in the same way that they always have been. In that situation, of course, someone again would have to sue you, and you'd have to lose, and then you would be covered in that case. I mean, you would be able to submit a claim, and they would adjudicate it, but those kinds of situations are still covered.
Sarah Pilzer 1:17:13
Questions about directors and officers insurance: Do you have a very general sense of what the cost would be for a local Affiliate?
Ben Williams 1:17:21
I actually do not. I saw that come through and I was like, “That's something I would love to know.” So, again, please email me because that's something I can get on our FAQ also.
Sarah Pilzer 1:17:34
Great. Let me see what else here.
Since we have discontinued events for the year, is there any possible refund for less use of insurance?
Ben Williams 1:17:52
Our insurance year just began. So, let me know if you're in a situation where you just purchased insurance a couple of weeks ago and then are not having events, and we can work through that. But we're just at the beginning of our year, which started May 1.
Sarah Pilzer 1:18:10
Great. Do we recommend getting D&O insurance to protect organizers?
Ben Williams 1:18:18
Again, that's sort of a tough question. It's gonna really depend, you know, it's sort of a risk assessment kind of situation. You're going to want to look at your organization. If you're a large organization that has a lot of assets, potentially, or is running a lot of programming, your exposure to risk from suit is higher. If you're a tiny organization running one dance month in a library, you have less risk. So that's something you have to look at. And, again, I'd be happy to connect you with our agent, who might be able to talk through some of those issues with you.
Sarah Pilzer 1:18:59
Are we covered if someone is injured at a virtual contra event?
Ben Williams 1:19:04
Ah! Thank you. That's something I should have put actually in my presentation, and that's a question we got last year, and I was surprised, actually, to learn that our agent said that yes, virtual events would be covered. Again, it's a situation where you're holding a virtual dance, and somebody injures themselves at home and then sues you for that and then wins, but you could submit a claim for such an action.
Sarah Pilzer 1:19:33
What types of injuries are covered other than physical injury? Food poisoning, emotional harm, anything…?
Ben Williams 1:19:40
I do not know the answer to that question. So yeah, if you'd like an answer, please email me, I'll forward that to our agent also.
Sarah Pilzer 1:19:51
Great. Do you know what process would happen if a lawsuit is COVID related?
Ben Williams 1:19:57
My understanding is just that the claim won't be accepted. So in a normal sort of process, you'd say, “We've injured, we were sued, we had to pay this amount. Here are the details; we'd like reimbursement.” And in the case that it was COVID-related, the insurance company would say, “Oh, it's COVID-related. Not even going to take a look at it.” That's my understanding. If you want some more detail, let me know.
Sarah Pilzer 1:20:30
Yes, and there's been a few suggestions. The questions that we aren't able to answer tonight, we will post—we can add those to the FAQ, so they're not just going to the question answer, that we can send them to everybody. Just letting folks know that. Let's see, does losing a suit include a negotiated settlement that includes a payout to the suing party? And I'm not sure if this might be more of a lawyer question than a Ben question, but...
Ben Williams 1:20:58
I don't know the answer to that question. Ann Marie, if you do, go ahead and jump in, but yeah.
Ann Marie Noonan 1:21:06
I'm not comfortable knowing the answer to that at the moment either.
Ben Williams 1:21:10
Again, feel free to—or we can add that to the list, and I'll be happy to forward that. Our insurance agent is going to have a good Thursday.
Sarah Pilzer 1:21:20
Are board members personally liable in suits against 501c3s, or just the organization's assets?
Ben Williams 1:21:29
That's something I'm not sure about. Again, I think it's gonna depend on the details of the suit, you know. I don't know whether being a 501c3 makes a difference in that case. I think it's the situation of who's named in the suit. Is the person going to be suing members individually or just the organization? Certainly they could do either.
Sarah Pilzer 1:21:57
Great. In a normal year, approximately how many CDSS affiliates are actually sued? Do you know the total number of cases?
Ben Williams 1:22:05
I'm not totally sure, but it's very few. And I think there are years where there are none.
Sarah Pilzer 1:22:17
Great. If you are sued….
Linda Henry 1:22:20
One more, Sarah. Just one more.
Sarah Pilzer 1:22:23
Okay, great. If you are sued, is there a requirement to notify the insurer even before there is an outcome?
Ben Williams 1:22:30
I don't know the answer to that question. So I'll add that to our list.
Sarah Pilzer 1:22:36
Great, great. Well, we are collecting all these questions, and we will get those answers posted on the insurance FAQ site.
Ben Williams 1:22:46
Linda Henry 1:22:48
Thank you, Ben. It's great to have personal attention for individual questions. Okay, next we have Michal Warshow, who is from Arlington, Virginia, and she is our resident epidemiologist for the next 25 minutes, so listen closely and gather your questions. Michal is also a supervisor for a COVID-19 contact tracing response team. So take it away, Michal.
Michal Warshow 1:23:26
Thanks, Linda. Hi, everybody. Thank you, CDSS, for having this really important Web Chat. I got a lot of questions from CDSS, and I'm going to do my best to answer all of them. And just one warning is that I'm not going to tell you what to do. So I hope nobody's disappointed that I can't give you black and white answers. I think you've probably figured that out already. But I want to provide you with enough information to make decisions for either your community or yourself.
I'll start with addressing the new guidelines from CDC in relation to the resumption of dancing, singing, and music gatherings. For the purpose of this talk, I'm just going to focus on dancing, but the same concerns are going to apply for singing and music events as well.
So according to the new CDC guidelines, people who are fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks after their last vaccine, may resume the normal activities that they were doing pre-pandemic. Fully vaccinated people may do this “without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.” And I think Ann Marie did a quite a thorough job explaining all that. However, masks are still required for everyone on public transportation, in health care settings, and in congregate settings, such as nursing homes.
The new guidance does not set any limits for vaccinated individuals with respect to whether the activity is indoors or outdoors; the number of people; the presence of unvaccinated people; or the type of activity. Basically, it says that vaccinated people have a very low risk of infection regardless of these factors. This doesn't mean that there's no risk at all, but it's low enough that CDC considers it okay to engage in these activities if you're vaccinated. And they made this decision in conjunction with the fact that cases have been going down and vaccination rates, although slowing down now, have been going up.
So, can we dance and sing the way we could pre-pandemic? Well, clearly not everyone is ready to accept this guidance outright. Individuals and local communities need to decide for themselves what they're comfortable with. It would certainly be reasonable for vaccinated people to continue to mask if that makes them more comfortable. It would also be reasonable to continue to follow these measures that we know reduce risks such as dancing outside versus inside, and maximizing ventilation if you're dancing indoors.
If you're fully vaccinated, the science points to very low risk of either becoming infected or transmitting the virus to others. The risk is never zero, since the vaccines are not 100% effective. However, if a fully vaccinated person does become infected, they're at very low risk of serious disease. If you're not vaccinated, the risk of transmission of infection or getting infected is of course higher.
Another concern is variants. Current data show the vaccine may be effective against some variants, but we don't know about all the variants. And we also don't know how long the protective effect of the vaccines will last. There's some thought that annual boosters might be required, such as what happens with the flu every year, but this is all still being explored.
So the implications for unvaccinated people are among the most difficult aspects of this guidance. If masking requirements are lifted for vaccinated people, then it becomes difficult to effectively track masking for unvaccinated people, unless vaccination is being verified, and as we know, that it's very difficult for public events. According to the CDC, there's not significant risk for vaccinated people from unvaccinated people, but unmasked, unvaccinated people certainly increase the risk for other unvaccinated people, and may actually increase the risk for some vaccinated people, since the vaccines are not 100% effective. And this is true even if they’re masked, but it's much lower if they’re masked. And risk is also higher for individuals with weakened immune systems in whom the vaccine may be not as effective, or not effective at all.
So, how can we reduce risk at a dance? Well, you can ask people about any symptoms. You know, you can have a sign. And I'm not going to talk about this too much because Katy is going to address specifically, more of this organization stuff, but, asking about symptoms or if anyone's been exposed to COVID-19 recently, they shouldn't be coming to the dance at all. And hopefully they know better, but you just don't know.
So, outdoor venues are always safer than indoors. Indoor venues with good ventilation are better than those with poor ventilation, and that refers to a flow of fresh air through the dance space, which is accomplished either with a good HVAC system or properly placed fans that drive the air. This is site-specific, so each venue is going to have to assess what the ventilation is like there, but fans that just recirculate the air are not providing good ventilation.
Wearing masks versus not wearing masks is another risk mitigation measure. And as we all know, masks reduce risk, and some fully vaccinated people may not be comfortable in certain settings without a mask. We've gotten used to them and they make us safer. And personally, I haven't decided if I'm comfortable going to an indoor dance and not wearing a mask yet, but I've got time to figure that out, so that's good.
Under no circumstances should mask shaming go on, which is someone being targeted because they're wearing a mask even if they're vaccinated. So this kind of gets back to Ann Marie’s question about how if somebody is either unvaccinated or vaccinated who wants to wear a mask, are they comfortable with themselves, with people potentially thinking that they're not vaccinated? So that's just something else to think about.
So is it safe to dance and sing? Is it safe to follow CDC guidance? CDC is the official government source of information and guidance for health based on science. Their guidance is that the risk is low enough to resume normal activities for fully vaccinated people. Local or venue guidelines which may be more stringent than the CDC also have to be followed. So, your state may not require people to mask indoors, but the venue that you rent every week may require it, in which case you have to follow the venue guidelines.
So we can't tell somebody that it's totally safe to dance, and we shouldn't try to encourage people who are reluctant to go back to dancing or singing or playing music. Each individual has to determine if they're comfortable with the risk level at the event they want to attend. The exact same risk level will seem very low to some people and too high for others. People have to assess their own level of risk. Do they have underlying health issues? Do they live with an immunocompromised person?—and their own comfort with the particular situation. As organizers, we can only try and minimize the risk as much as possible, and be transparent about what we're doing.
When will it be safe to dance? So there were a lot of questions about “Why don't we just wait until fall to reopen dances?” “Why don't we wait till spring?” So the timing isn't as important as the local infection rate and the vaccination rate. If infection rates are low, why wait until fall? And if the infection rate is high in the fall, or if there's a local outbreak, it’s much safer to postpone or cancel that event.
What are some of the metrics we can use to determine whether it's safe to hold the dance? Well, you can find information about the local rate of infection and the local rate of vaccination at certain sites, and there's a whole slide with my resources listed. So, the local vaccination rate may not accurately reflect the vaccination rate in your dance population, or the people who are attending your events. And so you get back to the issue of: are you going to require vaccinations—proof of vaccination?
When you do look at the CDC website, you can see the date of each update. So, the recent update about vaccinated people not having to wear masks anymore is from May, but other things that are the most recent update are still back from April. They're going to be updating a lot more about masking, by the way, in their new guidance.
So herd immunity: lots of questions about that. Does it apply here? So herd immunity does not apply to an individual event. It occurs when there's a high enough percentage of people in the general population that are immune to the virus, and that's through either vaccination or natural infection, to help prevent transmission of the virus to those who are not immune. In general, approximately 70-85% of a population needs to be immune for protection of others to occur. We don't know what the rate is for COVID-19, and many experts are unsure if we'll ever get to it. Herd immunity is often recognized well after it's been attained. So the goal right now is to increase vaccination rates, rather than focus on what some people believe to be a magic number.
I think whether organizers can ask for proof of vaccination has been addressed. You can—it is not a violation of HIPAA to ask that question, because this is not a healthcare setting.
So is it okay to have a dance with vaccinated and unvaccinated people? The CDC says vaccinated people can engage in vigorous indoor activity and sing in a choir without masks, and unvaccinated people should wear masks. Organizers will have to figure out how they're going to follow that guidance. It's really tough. CDC did not make things easier with their announcement last week.
So the next question is: How does vaccination status affect organizing events? And Katy is going to address most of this, but I just want to add a quick something about—There are many categories of events. There's local ones such as weekly or private dances; there are restricted ones such as a dance weekend or week; and there's large public events. And each of these scenarios—There's everything in between, too, so that's just a couple of examples. So each of those scenarios has different considerations. The host of a private event has complete control over who they invite, so they can choose to only invite vaccinated people. Large public events, which will most likely have a mix of people coming from areas with different infection rates, will have to determine what policies make sense for them. Yeah, vaccine could be required. If so, do you need proof? Are you going to require masks? If so, how are you going to enforce? If you do have a policy of requiring masks and someone takes theirs off, there has to be a bad guy. And that's true for the door, where you're asking people if they're vaccinated if that's your requirement, where you're asking for proof. And international travelers still have to be tested. So you could do the testing, as has been discussed already.
So, I hope I've helped to provide some guidance in this confusing time, and let me know what other questions you have.
Linda Henry 1:36:33
So Michal, would you like for the next couple of slides to be shown. One of them is just a list of your questions, and then the second one has resources that people would be interested in.
Michal Warshow 1:36:49
Sure. I'm sorry, I was actually reading most of that, so I thought the questions were going to be up. So I'm sorry I didn't tell you to do that, so we can just jump to the resources.
Linda Henry 1:37:06
There we go.
Michal Warshow 1:37:08
I guess you can take a screenshot, if you want that. A lot of this shows the same thing, but you may like the way the website works better. And you can get down to county level, to find out what the rates are in your local county. In some cases, your local public health department will have all that information, but CDC has a really good site. I like their site.
Linda Henry 1:37:43
Okay we have time for about five minutes of questions.
Sarah Pilzer 1:37:47
Great. Just one note: We are going to share these slides afterwards. So you can screenshot them now, but they'll also be available afterwards, so if you missed something, we'll get back to that.
Linda Henry 1:38:00
And Sarah, let me just say that the PowerPoint will be on the website, and there will be live links in the PowerPoint. They'll be posted next week.
Sarah Pilzer 1:38:10
Yeah, great. Specific questions for Michal: Can you quantify what the CDC means by very low risk, in terms of say an incident of transmission per 100,000 people or so?
Michal Warshow 1:38:26
So low risk, they consider to be 10 cases per 100,000 or lower. So that's the infection rate they recommend you look at.
Sarah Pilzer 1:38:37
Great. What is the difference between public transportation and other indoor settings, such that—
Michal Warshow 1:38:46
So, if you go to a dance, you could be in a very big hall, but—that's a really good question, by the way, because that recommendation made me stop, too, and think about it—But you're indoors, you're in a small area, and the circulation might not be that great. So I think that's the answer.
Sarah Pilzer 1:39:09
Great. Speaking of ventilation, are there established methods for measuring airflow and air exchange rates in a venue?
Michal Warshow 1:39:18
There probably are, but I'm not familiar with what they are. You'll have to find an engineer for that one.
Sarah Pilzer 1:39:27
Should we space dances out, i.e., more than a month between, so we can know if infections resulted from the event?
Michal Warshow 1:39:37
So that's a good question. I don't think you need to, just based on contact tracing. Certainly, a month or more is a lot of time. You're only going to be able to maybe trace it back to a dance within a very short period of time especially if the dance was really big. So unless your infection rates are really high or if there's an outbreak in your area, I don't think you need to space your event like that.
Sarah Pilzer 1:40:18
Is sudden reemergence of other pathogens like flu or RSV a concern?
Michal Warshow 1:40:27
You mean like when you go dancing?
Sarah Pilzer 1:40:29
Yeah, so we've been isolated, separated. Is there any concern in the epidemiology world that other communicable diseases are going to see an uptick as people resume activities?
Michal Warshow 1:40:41
Well, I can tell you that over the winter, the flu rates were really, really, really low because it's a respiratory respiratorily transmitted virus just like COVID. So by doing the precautions we've been doing, the distancing and the masking, our rates have dropped. And so we're probably going to see higher rates of flu next year—and probably any respiratorily transmitted disease, because what we were doing was preventing it. I've heard some people say they're going to always wear a mask in the winter to prevent those diseases.
Sarah Pilzer 1:41:26
Does the extremely close contact with many different people that is essential to contra dancing indicate a higher level risk than other “normal” activities?
Michal Warshow 1:41:41
Yes, higher risk.
Yeah. But if you're vaccinated, the risk is much lower than if you're not vaccinated.
Sarah Pilzer 1:41:50
Do people with a weakened immune system pose a greater risk to others, whether or not they're vaccinated?
Michal Warshow 1:41:57
Well, they probably have a higher risk of becoming infected, and therefore being able to transmit it to someone else. But, I think the concern would be more for themselves than for transmitting it to someone who's vaccinated. Someone who's vaccinated is pretty protected. That's what the studies are showing.
Sarah Pilzer 1:42:25
A follow up to the question about quantifying a low risk, the 10 out of 100k figure, is that per week or per day?
Michal Warshow 1:42:36
It's a rolling average for seven days.
Sarah Pilzer 1:42:48
Okay, let’s see. Are there special considerations regarding minors attending dance events? Would the notice or waiver, etc., have to be provided to be signed by a parent, instead of a minor? This might be more of an attorney question, but since minors are potentially unvaccinated.
Michal Warshow 1:43:05
So I know that your parent would have to sign it, because when we have minors who are exposed, we have to speak to their parents, we can't speak to them. So I'm going to throw that to Ann Marie.
Ann Marie Noonan 1:43:24
Yeah, I would generally recommend having a person of legal age. I think somebody individually chatted me asking what that is, and I think it could vary by state. So you'd want to make sure you're familiar with how old somebody needs to be in order to sign their own waiver.
Sarah Pilzer 1:43:41
There's some questions about negative tests as equivalent to vaccination, and what types of rapid testing are available and adequate for the safety purposes.
Michal Warshow 1:43:55
So, interestingly enough, just yesterday I found out that there's a rapid PCR—so, the PCR test is our gold standard. And there's also rapid testing. So if someone tests positive with a rapid test, which takes like 15 minutes, but is also tested using a PCR and the PCR comes in negative, they are not considered a case. There is a rapid PCR now, which takes 15 to 30 minutes, and I don't know how generally available it is. So, those tests are really good. So I'm sorry, what's the question again?
Sarah Pilzer 1:44:41
Yeah, so what type of tests, rapid testing would be available for using a negative test confirmation the same way you would require a vaccine?
Michal Warshow 1:44:50
I would like it to be a PCR, but that generally takes longer, but now with these rapid PCRs, that's great news. I don't know much more about them than that.
And the rapid PCRs are almost as good as the regular PCRs.
Linda Henry 1:45:10
Sarah, one more.
Sarah Pilzer 1:45:12
Okay. Can we require, or would you recommend, keeping contact information in order to have contact tracing available after an event?
Michal Warshow 1:45:25
So, as an epidemiologist and a contact tracer, I love the idea of getting that information at the door, getting the name, phone number, email. There are different ways, if there is an exposure at a dance, that you can go back, that you can get that information to the public health department. In terms of legality of that, I don't know how that works. And if—and how long you might have to get rid of that information after a while, I don't know about that. Ann Marie?
Ann Marie Noonan 1:46:10
I think for a while here in Massachusetts, organizations and buildings were being required to get that information. Certainly as restrictions are removed or modified in different states, I suppose, there may be some changes. I know some organizations have real hesitancy. I don’t know if my computer is doing that for others, but—have hesitancy to try to collect that information due to concerns that it might interfere with people's privacy. So I think you probably need to look at local concerns.
Sarah Pilzer 1:46:54
Okay. Back to you, Linda.
Linda Henry 1:46:55
Are—is there any one more burning question?
Sarah Pilzer 1:47:00
Oh, sure. Let's see, here’s one. Is there a recommendation for how long a hall should be cleared before other events happen in the same space? Is there like a cooldown period between events that makes it safer?
Michal Warshow 1:47:20
I don't know, but my guess is a place that's better ventilated probably doesn't need as long a time as a place that's not as well ventilated. And I don't know if there's a standard for that.
Linda Henry 1:47:38
Okay. Michal, thank you so much for filling us with all of this really helpful information. I know you've spent a long time preparing for this, so we really appreciate all that you've given us.
Well, it would have been easier if CDC hadn't changed things!
Linda Henry 1:48:05
Well, thank you for being so flexible. Okay, next we have Katie Olmstead. Next slide please. There we go. By the way, for those of you who know Doug Plummer, this is a photo of the back of Katie Olmstead, taken by Doug. So, Katie has been dancing since the 1970s, both English and contra, and is very involved with the dances that happen in Greenfield, MA and in fact was co-originator and co-organizer of the Fourth Saturday experienced contra dance series. So Katie and I have been talking for several weeks in preparation for this Web Chat, and I have heard her say many wise things as an organizer. It occurred to me that having an organizer’s perspective for five minutes on this Web Chat would be very useful. So take it away, Katie.
Katie Olmstead 1:49:08
Thanks, Linda. I am one of the Greenfield, Massachusetts dance organizers. We have been meeting more often, not less often during the pandemic. Taking ideas primarily from these Web Chats, we've been talking about how to constructively use this time, and how to plan for re-entry. Some of our topics have been exploring fresh advertising streams so as to bring in new dancers; how to change the culture going forward, so that people stop going to dances in order to sweat out that cold they feel coming on. Who hasn't gotten sick at a dance?
There’s a story I've heard a couple of times. I don't know what dance hall, but there was a person who showed up wearing glitter. By the end of the evening, every single person was wearing her glitter. If glitter can be shared from person to person to person, so can the air we breathe, and cold germs (remember when we actually worried about cold germs?) Can we communicate a new culture that holds, and I can see this coming up on a sign: “If you feel sick in any way, please come back another day.”
This is an opportunity, really, to reset how people think. We are asking if all our dances will resume at the same time, or will we need to take into account that some organizers might feel ready sooner than others. We have eight nights, ten nights with different organizers over a month. What would that look like? How will we communicate to our community about the need for proof of vaccination? Who is going to play the heavy by monitoring dancers before they even get into the hall?
Another question we have, and this has obviously been talked about: Will we need name and contact info for contact tracing, and should we add in a signed disclaimer, as has been talked about, in case someone contracts COVID? What would the process be, should someone report that they got sick? Should we have a conversation with a local public health person before we reopen? How long do we save tracing records? The mask question: What about masks? Would they provide a sense of safety, or just be annoying since they aren't all that useful once they're sweaty? A wet mask might help a little, but not a lot.
The question that I hear in my head a lot is: If we need masks, is it too soon? For us, we dance in a beautiful historic grange hall. I believe this is the first time in 100 years it has ever gone dark. Other dances may simply rent a hall. Ours has fixed expenses, and we feel a strong responsibility to help out, to assure that our fine dance hall will still be there and not sold off, when we return. So there is that work.
We need, as others have said, to recognize federal, state, and county municipalities, and the venues themselves may have different laws, regulations, and guidelines. All need to be followed. And if some are in opposition, the strictest rules, laws, or regulations are the ones we need to follow.
And now we need a meeting, because we're getting ready to get into the real nitty gritty: requiring proof of vaccination, how to actually do that, and how to communicate that to our community. Some people, especially since the CDC new guidance, are saying, “Oh, let's dance now! I'm vaccinated and ready to go.” Our job is to hold that enthusiasm, along with what Michal said at an earlier Web Chat, that contra dancing is an epidemiologist’s worst nightmare.
Members of all music, dance, and song communities need to know that we, the organizers, are being thoughtful, smart, checking with the science, and will not resume until we are confident that the time has arrived to be together safely. This is a lot of responsibility for us, and it should be.
We all care about each other and take the safety of our communities, both physical and emotional, seriously. We have to reopen with great care. How do we make each other, not only actually safe, but make it so that it feels safe?
I hope that all organizers will see this hiatus as an unusual opportunity to reset some standards, pay more attention to overall safety on the dance floor, or whatever your community is, bump up your communities to be attentive, moving forward; maybe even think about those things like bathroom signage, and definitely pay attention to other signage, be welcoming, and be smart.
Linda Henry 1:55:09
Thank you so much, Katie. Everybody, we're gonna skip the Q&A for Katie, and she was happy to share her perspectives from the journey that her group is on. So now, we will be moving on to share some resources. And our first slide will be explained by Joanna Reiner Wilkinson, who is cooking up some great new programs for everyone, and this one is specifically COVID-related.
Joanna Reiner Wilkinson 1:55:51
Hello, everyone. Thank you, Linda. So as Linda mentioned, I'm Joanna Reiner Wilkinson, and I'm still relatively new in my job as Director of Programs for CDSS. And part of our new online program initiative is this monthly online series that we're calling Common Time. And this will happen every third Monday, starting in June, and it will start at 7:30 Eastern time. And every month during the series will feature different speakers, use various formats, and cover a different area of content.
Our first program is on June 21, and our panelists, Lisa Greenleaf, Cis Hinkle, Kalia Kliban, and Ben Sachs-Hamilton, will talk about what dancers will need, want, and expect once in-person dancing resumes, and what do callers and organizers need to do to get ready for that, how they can work together to help rebuild the community and create successful events.
Registration for that program will go live next week, and we'll send you an email about it, so please stay tuned for that. And we hope to see you there, and at every third Monday program, Common Time. And I'd also love to hear from you. If there are topics you think we should cover in this program, please do reach out, and you can get to me directly at email@example.com. Thanks, Linda.
Linda Henry 1:57:23
Okay. We're gonna zip through some resource slides. We are a bit behind time, so here we go. More COVID resources from CDSS: please check out our Resource Portal. There's a COVID section with information that has been updated as we go along. And that's also where we will be providing the reentry checklist that's coming out next week.
We have a crowdsourced list of online events, and you can submit your event online—there's the link. And we have a way of supporting our gigging artists, and there's a link for that too. Next slide.
And quickly to run through more resources from CDSS: our Portal; Shared Weight, a listserv that has many different aspects; our grants program; Web Chats, of course—you can find information about all of our Web Chats on the website; CDSS newsletter comes out quarterly if you're a Member, and they're often articles that are important and useful for organizers; plus we offer one-on-one support from staff, so feel free to be in touch with us about any challenges that your community is encountering. And Katy German has a bit to say now.
Katy German 1:59:01
Yeah, I wanted to just take a moment and say thank you, but also to put some framing on what we just heard tonight. And I'm sure we all have our individual framing, because risk level and safety are individual decisions, which makes it maddening. It's maddening to not know what are the things? What is the magic recipe for when it's safe to come back to dancing? And I wish we could do that for you, but it would be irresponsible for us to tell you, “This is the formula that absolutely prevents all risk and harm for your community.”
I had an interesting—I heard from so many people. One musician reached out to me recently, talking about her decision-making process for taking gigs and not taking gigs right now, or planning ahead. And she said to me, “I see things are getting better, but I'm not ready to be a test subject. I'm not ready to join an experiment to see if it's time.”
And I've been thinking about that a lot, mostly because I think we are all in this experiment together. But it's not a randomized trial. We get to choose which test group we want to be in. And there will be a lot of us who will be choosing to go back as soon as possible. And there'll be a lot of us who will not be ready for a good long time.
My hope for our larger community, different and varied though we are, is that we can resist the urge to shame and attack and fight amongst ourselves, and think of us as one big experiment together. Because without the people who are boldly giving it a try—if they aren't trying it, and they don't want to communicate with the rest of us about trying it, we aren't going to be able to learn from those situations. And we need to be able to learn. We need to have good communication across the board, so that as people are conscientiously and carefully trying their first steps back, we can learn from that and we can share and we can become stronger.
So I wanted to just take a moment to put that out there: That we are moving forward, and we're not all going to be in step with each other, and as dancers that's very unsettling. We like to be in step with each other. We like to be on the same phrase. We’d like us all to come in and end together. But that's not the situation we're in. So I hope that we can continue working together, make our own decisions, listen to others as they make decisions that are different to ours, and support each other and help each other through.
I think that's our best path forward, and I really, I'm so grateful for the perspectives we got tonight—the legal lens, the insurance lens, the public health lens, and then, Katie, your words as an organizer, were just spot on. So, thank you, that's my soapbox spiel that I wanted to squeeze in at the end of this, and I hope you'll stick around and join breakout groups. Back to you, Linda.
Linda Henry 2:02:30
Thank you so much, Katy. That's a great way to bring us all together as we prepare to go our own ways, in our own journeys. So one more slide—quick wrap up slide—I'll be sending a survey tomorrow, and hope that you all will respond. This is a chance not only to give us ideas for future Web Chats, but also if there are any burning questions that were not answered by this Web Chat, you'll have a way to send them to us through that survey. And the following week, next week, you'll be able to see this Web Chat video, and the recording and PowerPoint, the transcriptions, on our website too.
So we'll be posting announcements when it comes time for the next one. We never quite know when that's going to be, so keep your eyes out for that, and we welcome your questions and comments. We are available and committed to doing what we can to support each community, no matter what challenges you are facing.
So, next slide. For those who are interested, we will have breakout sessions, and Crispin has made the arrangements to have breakout rooms of five to eight people. I'm asking everybody to briefly share who you are and what tradition your group is, and any question that hasn't been answered—there may be people in your group that have answers. And then we'll all join back in the main Zoom room at 8:45.
Crispin Youngberg 2:04:37
Give me just a moment to get this all set up. And here we go.
Katy German 2:20:39
I think Linda's planning on saying “bye” to everybody, but I'm not sure if she's made it back from the breakout room yet, so I will jump in and just say: I hope we leave you wanting a little bit more, but I hope that you got some good conversation in. Please do send us your questions; we are going to work really hard to get this Web Chat slides, the transcript, update the Q&A, the template for the waiver of liability, and a checklist that kind of summarizes the things that our guests tonight said that we need to all be monitoring, and going through and making sure that we're on top of. So give us a few days, we'll get that together as soon as possible. And I think we're ready to say goodbye, and we're going to unmute, let everybody unmute and send love across the waves.
An MD Discusses Vaccines, and We Discuss Our Sector’s Needs
Monday, March 1, 2021
Linda Henry 49:05
Greetings from CDSS, and welcome to our third Web Chat series discussing the preparations for the reentry. We're very grateful that 278 organizers of music, dance, and song communities from 37 states and two provinces have registered for this Web Chat. These programs are especially designed to support organizers of music, dance, and song communities because we know that you are the ones keeping these traditions alive. So we hope that this evening to experience will help you feel connected and supported by this broad network. And that you gather information and resources to help your group navigate however the pandemic unfolds.
I'm Linda Henry, Community Resources Manager for CDSS. And we have several other staff [members] in the wings: Sarah Pilzer, our Operations Manager; Nicki Perez, our Membership and and Development Coordinator; and Crispin Youngberg, our Office and Registrations Manager. We also have Katy German joining us this evening and she'll be hosting the Web Chat tonight. So we'll start off with some tech tips from Sarah.
Sarah Pilzer 50:36
Thanks, Linda. So I'm sure many of you are Zoom veterans by now but just as a reminder, you can control various settings, and the tabs that are open in your Zoom window, using the controls that are found either at the bottom of the screen if you're on desktop, or the top right corner if you're on a mobile device. A new feature that we're trying out tonight is live captioning - you might be seeing some subtitles underneath our video. If you don't wish to see those subtitles, just click on the live captions, which is in those controls, and you can turn them off. Depending on the size of your screen, you may need to click More before you see the live captions control.
From live captions, you can also open up a full transcript, in a separate window, which is similar to opening up the chat window or participants tab. And speaking of chat, we will be disabling the global chat during the presentation, but you can still message the hosts if you need to, and we'll be turning that chat back on at the end for Q&A.
From here you can toggle between gallery view or speaker view, depending on your preference, by clicking the View Options, which is either in the upper right hand corner on desktop, or upper left corner on mobile (and Nicki, next slide please), you'll notice that when we're in screen sharing right like we are right now with our slides, first of all, it puts you automatically in full screen mode. If you'd rather not be in full screen mode, you can just click on that View Options again and exit full screen. And secondly, you'll notice there's a little bar between the slides, and the video of the person speaking, and you can click on that bar and move it to adjust the proportion of each part of the screen. So if you want to make your slides bigger, you can drag it to the right, and if you want to make the video bigger you can drag it to the left. I know this works on desktop; I'm not sure about on mobile, but that's about it for tonight's tech tips, so I'm going to turn it over.
Linda Henry 52:39
A quick mention about pronouns, oh yeah I have one other reminder that I'll chime in.
Sarah Pilzer 52:46
Great, thank you for that. I had a note and I forgot to look at it. One last thing. If you have not already done so, please take a moment to either open up the participants tab and you can find your name, it should be near the top of that list, or locate your own video if you're in gallery view, and if you right click on either your name or your video, you can choose to rename yourself, and please include your personal pronouns. That will be a big help. Thanks.
And one other tip is that during the presentations, make sure to jot down any questions that you have, because we will have the breakout rooms following the presentations and then the Q&A at the end. So to help you remember your questions, just take some notes along the way.
Sarah Pilzer 53:33
Yeah. And as always with good Zoom etiquette, please keep your mics muted if you are not speaking; it'll help us all hear better. So, All right, I think now that's it for tech tips, and I'm gonna turn it over to you, Katy.
Katy German 53:48
Thanks, Sarah. All right, let's see that next slide. There we go. Great, thanks Nicki. Well welcome everybody. This is our plan for tonight. We are already late, late, late. This is what happens when there's so many people.
We are going to do a quick recap of what we've talked about so far in this series, but then we'll spend a good chunk of time hearing about the status of the vaccines, as well as the exciting news for both the US and Canada last week, with new vaccines being approved, what that might mean for our community.
We're going to take a moment to look at the whole sector perspective, and I'm going to share with you a synthesis of a lot of conversations I've had with people over the last few months. And we'll have some Breakout Room time. For those of you don't like to do that, that's a great time to go pet your cat or get some popcorn, but come on back at 8:05, we'll do Q&A with myself and Dr. German. So next slide please.
All right, you know who I am. I wanted to give a few disclaimers. One is that we will be talking a lot about vaccines, and health and safety. But this is not meant to be taken as medical advice. That applies directly to you - every situation is more nuanced and different. So please, please hear me when I say this is a friendly, good-faith discussion among people who share a passion. We'll get some useful information. But these are not meant to be hard and fast guidelines.
Another thing I need to be very transparent about is Dr. German, Dr. Thomas German, who will be joining us tonight. I am related to him. We are in fact married, and he is right there. So, he will be joining from the same laptop. He has been practicing medicine here in Asheville, North Carolina for eight years since residency.
And the other thing I wanted to note about him is that we had some feedback after, in the summer, when we were joined by a doctor from the Chicago area and contact tracer in the DC area we talked a lot about urban settings. But we had some folks who wanted to hear a little bit more from a rural perspective, if that makes any difference. So Dr. German here is coming from Asheville, North Carolina, which is not quite as urban as most of the other urban centers that we talked about.
All right. Next slide please. Nicki.
So just a quick recap of what we've talked about so far. It's hard to believe we're a full year into this pandemic. But here we are. Back in April, we started talking about what we can do for our community, looking at what was on the horizon, and the big theme of that Web Chat was how our organizers' job description is changing. You're not just getting - planning in-person events. We all, all of us are suddenly put into this position where we are holding communities together, trying to figure out how to maintain real personal connection in digital format, and learning as much as we can, as quickly as we can.
In early July, we started talking about - we started this series, which is - the goal is to keep checking in throughout the pandemic and talk about what's changing, what we're learning. We really focused on keeping people safe and preparing for the long haul. And then in October we met again, and we really, we talked about thinking about reentry in phases, and focused on the work that we could be doing now. So that brings us to 2021. Next slide please. Nicki.
So I wanted to highlight this great video that I think many of you have already seen, Dr. Dorry Segev. And I have not - I did get permission; I did exchange text with Dorry, but I don't know if I'm saying his last name correctly. But he created a video at the end of December and posted it on Facebook in January. So I - actually Nicki, while I'm speaking, can you copy that link into the chat so people can have it in the chat? That'd be great.
But this is a wonderful video. It talks about what the new viruses meant for our community, and answered - oh he's getting a lot of questions as a dancer and musician in his area. A lot of his community is asking a lot of questions, so he created this video. And I really recommend you go see it. Next slide.
We don't have time to watch the whole thing, otherwise I'd just show it. His take-home points at the beginning of January, where even though there are vaccines in the mix and they are starting to come out:
It is still important to socially distance, especially indoors.
It's important to wear a mask, especially indoors.
Remember that anyone can get the virus. So risk varies.
Remember that anyone can die from the virus, the risk varies.
And remember that vaccines are not a guarantee.
And I bring that up here because even though cases are dropping and we have some new news on the vaccine front, these are still where we are. So I wanted to drive that home, go watch that video, but let's keep moving now for this conversation. Next slide please.
So where are we in this pandemic? So overall cases are down, due mostly to the end of holiday gatherings; safety mandates that are in place. And the vaccines to a lesser extent. We're still, but it's important to remember that we're still above the initial spike. So we think all the way back last April when the cases started rising, and that felt dramatic and scary. We actually are still - our daily case rate is still above that level. We are much better and much more equipped, and much better at treating the disease, much more equipped. protocols are cleaner, more concise. So there we are making progress, but we're not out of it yet.
As I said, there are two new vaccines, one in the US and one in Canada, that have just just been approved in the last week, and Dr. German is going to talk about that just a little bit.
There's not a lot of change on rapid testing, it's still in the mix, but it's still - accuracy, reliability, and cost are all still very big barriers, and there's nothing right now that looks like a quick fix for us. And Dr. German is going to talk a little bit about herd immunity when he discusses his thing. All right. Next slide.
So with that, let's turn it over to the professional. I'm going to gently rotate my screen.
Thomas German 1:01:09
Hey, everyone. Hope everyone is having a good night. So Katy, my wife, asked me to give a update on the vaccines and what's going on with those currently, and a little bit about the ones that we already have out. So we have about 15% of our population vaccinated right now, so that's great. We certainly want to get up to a much higher levels so that we can get to that coveted herd immunity level. So, that that number is still variable, but 70% plus is certainly where we're shooting for, with hoping for some sort of herd immunity that's going to limit transmission.
So currently out, as many know, are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. If you're over 65, or have medical conditions, you may have already been able to get some of these vaccines. If not, then you're likely still waiting for a little bit longer. These are two-part vaccines, roughly about a month apart. The second vaccine providing even more protection than the first.
These are mRNA vaccines; lots of people have concerns, because we haven't had a widely distributed vaccine like this out before, but this is a method that we've used before with Zika and Ebola in other parts of the world.
So, this, these vaccines, drop a little piece of information into the cell not to the nucleus. So it is not changing our DNA. And then that, that little piece of information creates a spike protein which is found on the coronavirus that our body then responds to. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine that was just approved, and then the AstraZeneca that was approved in Canada, and hopefully will be approved here as well, are single dose vaccines (actually, AstraZeneca, I'll have to double check on that).
But those are viral vector vaccines. So very similar mechanism in that we are getting a piece of information into the cell, this time using a virus - adenovirus - that cannot replicate. So we're not infecting anybody. This is not a live virus or an attenuated virus, so this can be given to people with immune-compromised states. Similar mechanism, though, in that we are providing this piece of information to the cell that then places this spike protein out so that our immune system can respond to it. There is no replication of virus. There's no change in our DNA.
So these are things that some folks have been very concerned about, but these are quite safe. Again, we have actually used these mechanisms for other vaccines around the world, again for Zika, and Ebola.
So the efficacy has been extremely high, even better than we had hoped, which is awesome. The numbers that we see are the efficacy for preventing disease. That means preventing somebody from having obvious COVID disease. And so the Moderna and Pfizer are both at 94, 95% efficacy, which is great.
What we still don't know about these vaccines is how well do they prevent transmission. So we don't know if people are actually still getting the virus, but just not developing the disease states that we see with COVID-19. So that also puts into question: Can people who are vaccinated still spread the coronavirus? And for that, we think that there's great hope that we will not be spreading it as easily, but we don't have the data yet to fully support saying that if you were vaccinated that you're not likely to spread.
So the CDC did come out and say that for folks who have had the vaccine and who are potentially exposed, that they are not asked to quarantine currently. So, I think some of that is based on some hopes that it will prevent transmission.
There are some recent news articles out from the Lancet and also from Israel that also are positive in this regard, but maybe over-extrapolated in regards to how much hope that we can get from those, because the studies were sort of tangential data that we can't fully pull that from.
So, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine; the Johnson & Johnson being the only one currently available in the United States. And hopefully, several million doses will be available in the near future.
Many will note that those that vaccine doesn't have quite as high of an efficacy rate. And that is just for prevention of disease. In regards to the amount of deaths, actually, nobody with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who has been vaccinated has died. So, so far it's 100% in preventing that, and it's near 100% for preventing hospitalization, and that's - those are the numbers that we really want to look at when we're looking at this vaccine that's coming online currently.
I think if anybody in any community has any chance to get these vaccines, regardless of whether it's Pfizer, Moderna, or the new Johnson & Johnson, I would advise you go ahead and get it. I think the sooner everybody who's - what?
[Katy interrupted with this comment:]
Katy German 1:06:54
That's friendly advice from a doctor who doesn't know your full medical condition.
Thomas German 1:07:00
That's right. So, but we, we don't want to think of this as a second-class vaccine - the Johnson & Johnson. So - is there anything else on the vaccines that you want me to add in right now?
Katy German 1:07:15
Yeah, well we had some questions that people sent in ahead of time, which might be a great kind of guide for what comes next. These are dance, music, and song organizers. So, we're talking about folks who organize events from either a large indoor gathering to like Morris teams where they can get together in a small contained group and dance together - so I mean, I think a lot of what's on everybody's mind is, what does this mean and when can we get together? When's it safe?
But let's answer some of the questions that came in, and then see where we go from there. And if you have questions as you're listening, jot them down and remember there'll be a Q&A later to bring them up. So, let's see. Oops. Hang on folks I need to change the view back to - not this, basically. There we go. Okay, sorry, hon.
Okay, so, question number one: If you have already had COVID, do you need to be vaccinated?
Thomas German 1:08:25
Yes. Right now we are just proceeding with the current vaccination schedules - if it's Pfizer or Moderna, you're still getting two. There's some information about possibly only needing one, if you've already had COVID, but right now, the plan is that you would still get vaccinated to make sure that your immunity is full. There are some people who have had COVID disease from the coronavirus and did not develop a significant immune response.
Katy German 1:08:50
Great. How does being vaccinated impact transmission risk?
Thomas German 1:08:56
So I touched on this just a minute ago. We're still not completely sure, and there are more studies coming out on this. I hope later this summer, we'll have some more information. The studies are actually pretty complicated, as you might expect, to get the data that we want out of this. Currently, the overall transmission is going down, so any study done right now, they're going to have to make sure that they're accounting for that as well. Also, almost near-daily testing may be necessary to try to figure out, and lots of contact tracing, to see if the vaccine is truly preventing transmission.
We just don't know if, if we get the vaccine, if we do get a low level of viral replication, is that enough to pass it to the next person through our nasal passages, or is it not? And this virus is just too new for us to know that yet.
Katy German 1:09:49
All right. Do you think we could utilize rapid testing to get back to gathering in person sooner?
Thomas German 1:09:56
So, right now, the rapid testing is extremely variable. There is only actually one home test that is approved through the FDA. And you could look that up easily; it's the Ellume test. But that was the only one that does not require a doctor visit or a telehealth visit to perform. Its testing characteristics seem pretty good, but it does have a relatively high cost.
We also just don't know exactly how to use the rapid testing yet. It will very much depend on the person's risk, the current risk in the area, and the prevalence of the disease in the area. And whether that test will actually perform well to help prevent transmission. It may actually take several tests in a row to prevent infections, because the test is not very good at picking up the very early stages of the disease, and it's not very good at testing for folks to see if they are no longer infectious. So those are things that the rapid test is not helpful for.
Katy German 1:11:07
Great. Nicki's suggesting that we spell out - can you spell out the name of that home rapid test?
Thomas German 1:11:13
E-l-l-u-m-e. And that was just approved in the last month, and is - the United States is ordering a lot of those tests but, it's not nearly enough to be widespread. It certainly will be difficult for folks who don't have access to technology or access to funds to be able to perform that test.
Katy German 1:11:38
Great. So at what point will we know it's "safe" to gather again as we used to?
Thomas German 1:11:46
So, obviously the "safe" there is in quotation marks for a reason. Everybody's risk is a little bit different. We have all gathered in the winter in previous years when flu is going around - COVID 19 disease being much more dangerous than the regular influenza, but just in comparison. We have many people in the United States, between 30 and 60,000 people a year depending on the season, die from influenza.
Some folks don't find that necessary, don't find that acceptable risk, and if they're older and have immune compromised states, they might not go to a dance. If, if we're younger and we don't see that as a major risk, then we're going to possibly go to that dance. So everybody's risk is going to be different.
And there's not going to be a totally safe time ever. This virus will be here for good. The only thing that we have right now to prevent hospitalization, comorbidities, and death from this virus is the vaccine currently.
So, but obviously not everybody is going to get vaccinated, and so there's always going to be a chance of transmission from folks who have either been vaccinated (as I said, we're not sure yet), to somebody who has not been, or else from other folks who have not been vaccinated. So, this is also going to depend on the local prevalence of the disease in your area. And we are not - you know, this will be determined by state and local organizations as far as what is safe. So, just in conversations with Katy, CDSS is not going to be coming out with a, "This is now the safe time together again." Is that correct?
Katy German 1:13:37
Yeah. I'm real sorry, I know that would really make everybody's life a lot easier, but that would be an irresponsible thing for CDSS to do because of, well, what we've talked about so far, but also some of the disparities in how the vaccines are rolling out. And we aren't going to be on the same page. So that's why it gets hard.
Dr. Segev - the video I referred to earlier - he has a neat section that talks about thinking about your risk threshold, personally and as a community, and I think that's a really good way to start thinking about it. Because we've always danced at our own risk - we just don't really think about it. We've - most of the risk to us are, you know, cold, and maybe some stomach bugs have gone around some dance events - I know some of you out there have experienced that.
There's never going to be a time when we can figure out how to dance and touch and interact without transmitting something. So it's really a matter of when does that safety threat, that risk threshold, get down to a level where we as organizers are comfortable holding events, and where we as individuals are comfortable going to events. And that we don't know, it's still an uncertain area. And it's really frustrating that it's uncertain and we can't predict it yet, but that's where we still are.
Okay, a few more questions. What do the other emerging strains of this virus mean for our future?
Thomas German 1:15:15
So, many of you have seen in the news that there have been variants that have come to the United States from other parts of the world or arisen here. The South African strain has been particularly concerning; it seems to spread much easier and have similar characteristics in regards to potential comorbidities, hospitalizations, and death.
So, we are concerned that we may see another spike later this year. We have started to see, I think as Katy said, after the major holiday season. Certainly amid some of the weather that we've had in our country over the past month, where people have been staying inside and not going out as much, hopefully some of this is folks being very careful and try not to spread or get COVID-19.
So, I think it's still remains to see later this year as we get to warmer weather, we're going to want to get out; we're going to want to go do things. I think continuing to be extremely vigilant is very important as we head into the spring. just to see if we can kind of keep this at bay.
Both of the vaccine methods that have come out, the mRNA vaccines and the viral vector vaccines, can actually be modified relatively easily, and Moderna already has potentially a booster vaccine available. I suspect that in years in the future, we will be getting a new COVID-19 vaccine once a year, or possibly every two years, depending on how things go. So we'll just have to see how that goes. Yeah.
Katy German 1:17:07
Great. And what does our - what does the past teach us about public willingness and readiness to come back together? That's a fantastic question. I have not done that research yet, but I do know that the 20s were roaring. And there were a lot of factors that went into that, including the fact that they had just been through a world war and a pandemic. And I certainly feel like this pandemic is impacting us on a level that they were impacted by that pandemic.
I do think that people will come back together and be ready to, and we are just going to have to live through that awkward time when someone, or a few organizers, try it, and we all watch and see what happens. And then a few more and a few more. And that's scary, because nobody wants to take that risk. Nobody wants to put anybody in danger.
And we are not there yet. I want to really strongly emphasize that even though we're talking about getting back together, I can say with certainty that it would be a mistake to start to rush back now. We have been such - we, as a sector, our whole sector, which is participatory dance music and song - we've been really good about supporting each other, guiding our communities, staying strong and being creative, and not being a part of the problem. But the problem is still very much out there. It's still very dynamic, and there's still a lot that's unknown.
So we need to keep not being part of the problem. I think most people who choose to join these discussions already feel that way, but I just want to really emphasize it.
Okay. Nicki. Next slide.
So I want to take a moment. At CDSS we adopted some core values, including inclusivity, and that's really kind of impacting a lot of what we do and how we operate. That closed captioning function that we have as a default - we're trying to do that more often, to help people with hearing impairments, and make sure that what we put out there digitally is as accessible as possible.
But that also means that we talk about it. And one thing that is really important to the board and the staff is to talk about equity in this - in vaccine distribution in the pandemic as well, and to really just make sure everybody understands, there are some real disparities right now. And so when we start thinking about "It's time to go back; we want to start gathering, want to start having events," it'll be really important for all organizers - for everybody in the community - to stay up to date and understand what the distribution disparities are in your area, and think through how that might affect who's going to be ready and willing and able to walk through the door, long term.
So, one way I'm going to - are you comfortable back there, or do you want me to move the camera away? I'll move the camera away, but if we want to loop him in we can do that again too.
So one of the things that we - ways that the vaccination distribution is very uneven is related to geography. I think, as many of you know, our Canadian members and friends are having a much slower rollout. They've had manufacturing issues; they have had shipping delays due to the winter. So, they are in a very frustrating position. And as hard as it is to be patient in the US, where the vaccines are rolling, it's much harder for our Canadian friends right now.
Geography also comes into play when we think of rural versus urban distribution. So there's been a lot of pressure to get vaccines rolling, and when it's distributed to a densely populated area, you can get it out to more people quickly. Distribution in [rural] settings - there's just extra travel and time involved, and that becomes tricky, especially for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have to be deeply refrigerated and have a more restrictive shelf life.
So that's just something to be aware of. There are definitely large swaths of the country where that are rural and they have not had the same access to vaccines, as folks in urban areas.
There are also very clear economic, class, and race disparities in the vaccine distribution. And it's really come - you know, everything is related to everything else. But the pandemic has illuminated so many of the disparities in health care outcomes for indigenous people, people of color, people in lower socioeconomic status, and, you know, a lot of times, the they are considered essential workers, are doing a lot of the support work; they don't have the flexibility in jobs, to take off. I'm sorry, I got distracted by a pop up. Forgive me for my tongue tie.
In many cases, to sign up, you have to do it online too, so that requires comfort signing up online. The time to stay at it -, I mean I think many of you have already experienced, how you have to try and try and try and try before you finally get an appointment. You need to have flexibility in your scheduling. Time to take off work, transportation to get to the location, and then again back into a rural situation - sometimes those distances are really long drives, and so it's the transportation and the time it takes to get there.
To overcome all of those barriers, you need a decent bit, or minimal level of trust in medical and public health entities. And that's where history really comes into play for communities that have felt overlooked and not taken care of by the health system in either of our countries, but certainly in the US. That's another really big barrier. So this is a great article about - from the Journal of American - wait, what does JAMA stand for?
Thomas German 1:24:06
Journal of American Medicine.
Katy German 1:24:10
A. And then there's an A. I will - Nicki, if you could copy that link in too, that talks a little bit about disparities and inequity.
So - oh, next slide too, please. Thank you. So we also have a kind of situation where we have efficacy and expediency a little bit at odds with each other. The general understanding is that for vaccine rollout, if you can target the hardest-hit population, the people most vulnerable, most susceptible, and make sure there's enough doses allocated to them and prioritized for them...then we have a higher chance of creating safety for our most vulnerable people.
The problem is that it is a lot of complexity, and there's a lot of, you know, if then you have to take into account people's backgrounds, class, race, comorbidities, all sorts of things - every level of complexity means it's harder to roll out the vaccine.
So in January we started seeing a lot of states transition to a much more simplified approach which is: everybody over 65, regardless of other risk factors. And then that helps get a lot more vaccines out, but it's not necessarily the strategy that gets us to safety as a whole population quickest.
I probably should have let this guy talk about that, because he would probably say it better than me. But the point I want to make is that there is a lot of pressure right now for governments and politicians to get their numbers up. If you look at this little graph - I'm sorry, it's very small, but it's one of the trackers that talks about the number of individual doses per 100 people that are given out, and there are several trackers for this.
And there's a lot of political pressure to get that number up. And so that means that - what that means is we're going to need to still be patient, even though those numbers of doses are going up, more and more doses are out there, people are getting vaccinated, it's not necessarily getting to the most vulnerable populations, the way it would need to be in order to get back to kind of letting our guard down.
And so that's just a dynamic that's at play: states are making different decisions. Massachusetts and I think Tennessee are two states that actually have a much more nuanced distribution, like they allocate doses for different needs and populations. And hopefully as time goes by, we'll have more and more data on success, and how to make, how to do that well, and other states will jump on board. But it's a factor to consider.
Okay. Next slide. So, last time we talked in October we talked about thinking through a four phase system. We may decide there are other phases, but I think that's still basically makes sense. And I think that we are - oh shoot. Ah, that little "where we are" marker shifted when I added text. I am supposed to be making the point right now that we are still in the social distance space, so ignore where that red marker is.
We are still in the social distance phase. We are making progress, but we are not at a point where it is universally safe to do local events. I will say, though, that with the weather warming up, that there are ways to conduct smaller-scale gatherings outside that are distanced, or that are safe. And we've heard from some folks that were doing that for song groups, some dance groups, or some musician gatherings as well. So that's something you can consider but, again, still mask if you can; still stay distanced if you can.
We did have someone ask about Morris teams that are smaller gatherings of people, they're not necessarily changing partners. That's a discussion you need to have with your team and really make sure that everybody's on the same page, everybody's comfortable, and everybody understands what the risk is.
Because here's the thing: You worry about it and worry about it and worry about it. This is my experience with my pod, the people that we're talking with. Once you get around them. it feels okay. And that feeling okay is so nice to feel that it gets really, really tempting to just continue letting your guard down.
And that's human nature, for all of us. We miss being together. So one thing we as organizers need to think about is making sure that if we're going to take a step towards gathering, we have the conversations with people first, to understand what what that small group of people is comfortable with, what they're not comfortable with, what everybody needs to do to stay safe, and then stay vigilant on it. We don't want to start becoming part of the problem this far into the pandemic, because we've done such a good job.
So I think we're likely in this space until June? I don't know, please don't hold me hard and fast, but we have a long way to go before enough people and enough of the vulnerable people in our population are immunized.
So I'm just going to put that out there, and you can discuss it as you will. But I hope that you will take into consideration all the unknowns we still are dealing with.
And the other thing I want to say especially right now is your leadership is so important. And again, I know most of you didn't sign on to be bold leaders. A lot of folks just wanted to plan events, because they're really good at it, and you can do the logistics from the back end. But all of our communities need all of us to be strong, open, transparent, empathetic leaders right now. And everybody is tired, and a little bit goes a long way, is what I'm saying. You don't have to be more than you are you already are, what your community needs from you. We just gotta make sure that conversations are happening.
So next slide. Alright, so, in phase one, we're looking at emphasizing online events still; small, socially distanced outdoor gathering start to become okay. Really, this is the best time for you all with your communities to work on community culture safety values policies.
And another good discussion to go ahead and start having is what happens if someone wants to engage or join in a small event or early events, and they don't want to adhere to guidelines. It's a tricky place to be in. And so, the more you think it through now, how you want to communicate what you need to say, the better it's going to go. And these are going to be long complex conversations, so go ahead and start organizing, scheduling talks with folks, series of conversations with your community.
I would even suggest, if you have the ability to survey your community, that would be a really great thing to be doing right now. Start asking people in a methodical way: What is your comfort level? What will be important to you to return to dancing? What are your risks? ...Are you vaccinated? Those kind of questions are things we're going to not just ask once, but ask them multiple times, so that you can start seeing what is changing and what is progressing in your group of folks.
The other thing we talked about last time was fundraising, and thinking about that in terms of fundraising for freelancers, but also for the dance organizations that you're involved in. I want to switch that to fundraising and advocacy. And this is the part where I want to synthesize some of the conversations I've had with folks over the last two months now. Next slide please.
Oops! Oh, I'm missing a slide. Okay, I'm just going to talk.
You ready? Here we go. So, several callers and musicians have reached out to me, I think independently, over the last few months, to talk about some of the struggles and concerns that they're having. And I before I proceed, I want to say that I did follow up with some of these folks and ask them if they would come and be guest speakers, but that's not a comfortable position for them to be in, and I think you'll see why in just a moment.
So, when the pandemic started, so many of us had never thought about trying to do our dance, music, and song activities online. We didn't know what we were getting into. We didn't know the labor involved, and everyone - organizers, participants, musicians, callers, singers, song leaders - everyone was willing and ready to do whatever we needed to do to take care of each other.
That hasn't changed. But we're learning more about the labor involved. And what we have now is a situation where we're learning what the work involved in putting on successful events, the choreography that must be adapted, the singing, the teaching that must be adapted, the technology that must be downloaded or purchased and then learned. There's also the coordination between musicians, and then between callers and musicians, as well.
So, what does that mean? At the beginning of the pandemic, when we were all putting it together, the easiest way to show support for the labor involved was to put a tip jar up. And I think a lot of organizers worked really hard to to acknowledge that it doesn't feel the same as an in-person event. And it somehow feels less than, but it was still very important.
What I would like us to shift to is moving away from that: the mindset that we're doing this only because we can't get it in person. Because one thing that I've heard really consistently from organizers and Affiliates and people across the country, is that we see a role for online engagements, even after we return to in-person gatherings. Not to replace in-person gatherings, but there are things that we can do, there are ways we can connect online, and now we know how to do it better. That that's going to continue going forward.
We have to really think about how to make that sustainable for the people who are involved in putting on those online events. And right now, by and large, we have a sustainability problem, in terms of fair compensation for the labor involved. I know that we are a folk grassroots community, and that that is often at odds - or that it feels better to be there than in a professional role.
But we've always straddled that balance between folk community volunteerism and professionalism. Because we really value, and we really rely on, freelance musicians and callers and sound techs, tech support folks, who create these really positive experiences for us.
So here are some simple things that I think we can do that I want to put out there for all of you here. We can shift from a tip jar mentality to a suggested donation and sliding scale mentality. Some folks are already doing that, and that's great. Some folks, some groups offer a base pay and then tips on above that. Not everybody's going to be in that same financial situation.
But the important thing is, as you're planning online events, have these conversations with the musicians, and resist the urge to feel like we've set a precedent. Yeah, I think I'm gonna stick with that.
We haven't set a precedent. We were in survival mode. Now we're in growth, learning, and sustainability mode, and we need to adapt. Because the truth is, we are not going to be able to continue providing high-quality online events if we cannot, as a whole sector, raise that base kind of level of understanding and pay. For callers in particular, sometimes they're putting in 8, 10, 12 hours to adapt their dances, try them out, coordinate with musicians and get that together. It's very different than driving an hour up the road and calling from the cards you're used to. That's just one little example.
Another thing that would really help with this is if all organizers who are putting together online events take a moment to make sure you're advocating to the participants for this. And I think - I have talked with some organizers who have said that it feels like we can't ask for money because everybody is struggling, and nobody really likes the online events more than - well, I'm sorry, that was hyperbole. Very few people are reporting that they enjoy online events more than the in-person events. If they feel "less than," even now that we're doing them really well, they still feel like a "less than" product, but the time is not "less than" - the time required to put it together. And the energy and the effort and all of the things those folks have had to learn. That's a huge investment.
So, organizers, it's time to talk to your community and help guide your community towards a little bit more equitable compensation. I don't have a suggested rate, because cost of living changes, or is different in different areas. Many people - there are still many organizers, I'm sorry, callers and musicians out there, and teachers and leaders, who are in a position to work with lower pay. And there will be people who will say they don't need that. But I think the important thing is that we have the conversation now, and we help participants.
So, advocating for our freelancers - that means talking about money, talking about what their time is and what their comfort base pay is; thinking about how we frame that differently, from a tip jar mentality to suggested donation and sliding scale, and really being bold and happy and fearless about talking to your community. Because the truth is, we all want this, we all want to take care of each other.
Okay, now ready for the next slide. How are we doing on time? Great. All right. So we are going to take a break for breakout rooms. And let's see, I think we probably will only have - Crispin, time check. I'm sorry I'm trying to get back to that. I can't see - I need to see - Crispin, how many, how much time do you think we should put folks in breakout rooms for?
Crispin Youngberg 1:41:02
Oh, we thought 20 originally but I think we're running a little bit late, right?
Katy German 1:41:07
I think so too.
Crispin Youngberg 1:41:10
Should we cut that down to 15 or is, is that going to be good?
Katy German 1:41:15
Let's do 15. 15 sounds good. So, here's what I suggest that you talk about but you certainly are free to do as you will. Move briefly through your name, location, and the tradition that you, what traditions you're involved in. What I want to hear or see in the chat after we're done: what feels the hardest right now? And what are you thinking about doing next for your community? And I think that that's all we need to say, and you'll get a prompt when it's time to come back.
Crispin Youngberg 1:41:53
Okay, Here we go.
Katy German 1:56:26
All right. People are trickling back in; we'll give it a few more minutes, or a few more seconds. Oh, it's nice to see faces now as people come in.
Okay, let's see. Oh, folks still coming in. So, this slide says "Q&A Both Ways," but we are short on time, so I'm not going to ask questions of you. Instead, there will be some questions about - we're going to put those prompt questions in the follow up survey questionnaire, and it'd be great if you all could share some of what you talked about, or what came up in those discussions.
Now we're going to do an open Q&A time. So, you can enter your questions; questions that were already entered into chat, I think we already have captured. Sarah is going to help us keep track as best we can, but use the chat to enter questions that you want to ask. And as time allows, we'll do our best to get to them, and answer them. And if it's something that - we'll just take it question by question and see what comes. Okay.
Sarah Pilzer 1:58:33
So, I've seen this question actually a couple times so let's start with this one. How do we deal with individuals who have not been vaccinated, or do not want to get vaccinated, but will want to come to dances?
Katy German 1:58:50
I don't think that we can give you a blanket set of instructions for that. I do think it's really important to think through whoever's monitoring that, or checking that at the front door, what position you're putting them in - or the proverbial front door. I think that we will need to do safety recommendations and guidelines. And each group will need to decide for themselves what the policy and practice and actions will be if someone comes and openly disagrees and refuses to do it.
And that is a hard discussion, we have to have that discussion for our own events and our camps, and we start having them as well. And I'm sorry that I can't give you a policy that you can just easily implement. But we'll keep learning from each other and sharing what goes, how it's going.
Sarah Pilzer 1:59:59
All right. Another pair of very similar questions. Do you expect CDSS or other organizations' insurance to cover liability in case someone gets ill after coming to a dance?
Katy German 2:00:15
So, the insurance that we extend to our Affiliates covers the organizations. If someone gets ill after coming to a dance and wants to sue an organization, I think right now it's murky enough that you're protected, but we totally (totally. I'm sorry. How old am I?) - we anticipate hearing from our insurer that there will be a clause about COVID coming out in the next season. So it may not be the case that organizers will be protected in the event that someone wants to sue because of getting sick.
It is important to also remember that the insurance doesn't cover individuals participating in the dance. So let's say we go to a dance, and Thomas comes, and he's not vaccinated, and he dances with me all night and makes me sick. If I decide I want to sue him, that policy is not in play at all. So, I think it's really important to just differentiate between what, you know, make sure everybody understands what the policy does cover and what it doesn't cover. But like I say, we think that we will be getting an updated policy with a clause that does not - limits protection for COVID transmission. And as soon as we hear anything, we will communicate out to our affiliates.
Sarah Pilzer 2:01:43
Great. This is a question about the phases that you talked about. Can you explain a little bit why you think geography versus an individual safety practice or risk profile matters, as compared to geography? So when you're thinking about basing phases, we talked about local and regional, why the emphasis on geography?
Thomas German 2:02:07
So right now, at least in North Carolina and I don't know specifically how other states are managing this, they are determining threat levels for each county based on a number of factors as far as prevalence, percent positive tests - and all of those go into play as far as what recommendations there are in regards to limitations of numbers of individuals meeting, or opening of restaurants or bars, all of those things. So since we were saying that we are going to be relying on public health organizations, or our county and state recommendations, currently, those are based on a county by county basis, at least in North Carolina, and I suspect around the country. We certainly saw regions of the country that had big spikes before others. And so it does change, sort of on a week to week and month to month basis in regards to the prevalence and percent positive tests that we're seeing. So I think that's why - that's where that comes from.
Sarah Pilzer 2:03:19
Great. Follow up, kind of, to that: do you think CDSS would consider offering general guidelines, such as a transmissibility rate, like how low it should be before a locality returns in person in general, or does it really depend on where you are?
Katy German 2:03:38
I'm happy to let you speak to this too, but I think that's just one of many factors to take into account, and so it's more of a flowchart equation than a straightforward list of guidelines. And it's - we will be exploring what we can offer that's helpful guidance, and what is not helpful guidance. But the truth is, it feels like we will be behind whatever your local assessment will be, because we're going to be trying to come up with a base level, something we can say for everybody, which is not going to be very specific and useful to local organizers, so it'll be really - Don't wait for CDSS to do it. It's not because - we would if we could. If there was a way that we could provide this information in a way that would lead to safe gatherings for everybody, we would do it in a heartbeat. But we have to be really careful not to mislead someone, or mislead organizations, and provide recommendations that are not specific to the situation where you are.
Sarah Pilzer 2:05:04
Changing topics a little bit. This one's about viral load, and since that's related to whether someone gets infected or not, do we think that the chance of getting infected if you have been vaccinated is also related to viral load, or is it more likely related to other factors such as genetics? Expecting that dancers who are infected are going to generate a lot of virus, so is a high viral load going to be a high risk factor, even if you've been vaccinated?
Thomas German 2:05:35
Yeah. And so that's kind of what I touched on earlier, in regards to the vaccines and the data that we don't have yet, as far as how much - how often are people getting infected and exhibiting some viral load, even after being vaccinated. And we still just don't know that. We really have good reason to believe that viral load, and then spread, are going to be lower, but if the threshold for spreading COVID-19 is extraordinarily low, then even somebody with extremely low viral load after getting vaccinated might still pass it on to somebody. And so it's one of those things where we're just sort of employing the precautionary principle that we've got to kind of prove that this is safe before we assume that it is. And so, yeah, right now, certainly somebody with a high viral load in a dance, where they're breathing and changing partners every set, you know that's not a good situation for sure.
Katy German 2:06:34
Singing plus proximity as well. Right.
Sarah Pilzer 2:06:37
There are several different questions along the lines of the legality of asking somebody whether they've been vaccinated, excluding them from a dance if they haven't been, and whether CDSS could consult with an attorney to provide guidance on those questions.
Katy German 2:06:54
We will be - that is our plan, is to consult with an attorney, but so far the attorney we've spoken to has said you need to talk to an attorney in your area. Because the - obnoxiously enough, where you are and the state that you are operating in may have different - oh, it's been a minute, I'm not going to say the right thing. I'm sorry. The really important salient take home point is that you need to consult with a lawyer in your - that knows your region and your area, and understands the precedent and what happens there. But we are actively reaching out to consult with lawyers, and if we are able to share something that would be helpful, we will.
Sarah Pilzer 2:07:49
So in terms of CDSS providing guidance as it relates to national legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, that is something we expect to be able to comment on?
Katy German 2:08:02
I'm not sure I completely - the Americans with Disabilities Act as it relates to COVID transmission or vaccination?
Sarah Pilzer 2:08:12
Vaccination, or restricting folks from participating, due to vaccination status.
Katy German 2:08:20
I'm going to look that up, we'll talk about that next time.
Sarah Pilzer 2:08:24
Great. Let's see, this is on a pretty different tack, but I think also salient: How do you keep a community together when some people are going to want to continue meeting virtually, even after you've returned to in-person events?
Katy German 2:08:50
That's a great question, and honestly there's probably a lot more people with ideas on that on this call, or on this Web Chat. I think the key, the key that I'm learning and I've learned a lot this year, is fearless, open, transparent communication. And I know that is - it seems overly simplistic, but I think it's really important to just keep giving folks the opportunity to talk through what is important to them, what they need.
There are definitely benefits to the online engagements. We've heard that people are making some really deep and meaningful connections, that it feels really good to, to think about a larger community. It's going to be really important to understand in your local groups, or in your event groups, how much that has come into play for the people who are your core participants, the people who are involved.
And also, to really make sure that you're thinking through, you know, if we have new people coming in the door, new people seeking participatory art, music, dance, and song experiences - to help bridge that gap, so that it doesn't become a members-only club, or kind of an elite thing where just the in crowd is online, but creating those pathways back and forth.
And, yeah, more, more talking at the dances - which is sometimes the last thing you want to hear, but it's really important. And then I think we're going to come out of this with an understanding as a whole community, how important it is to talk through some of the issues. What are you comfortable with? What are you not comfortable with? How do you feel safe? What do you need? How do I take care of you, so that we can do this together? I think that's going to be a big piece of it. And there's not going to be one answer for every community or every tradition out there.
Sarah Pilzer 2:11:06
Great. I think we have time for one more quick question. Hopefully quick. And this pertains to sort of like, I guess like once people are coming back, what is the opinion on temperature screening as a methodology for hopefully reducing transmission?
Thomas German 2:11:31
Yeah, so certainly folks are doing that around; we're doing that with schools, there's a little bit of evidence for that. We're not sure how effective it would be, but it certainly could be a screening tool added. Obviously there's a concern that some of the folks who are not keeping with other guidelines might refuse that as well, and so that would be difficult, but yeah, I think certainly adding in any kind of protection that we can.
I will go ahead and say that, I think once we even start to go back to dancing, that folks - I mean, we're going to be wearing masks for a long time. I hope everybody knows that, that that's going to be the case, because it still is protective. Even if we're going to be relatively close to each other. Obviously, anything outdoors is going to be the best thing to do. But yeah.
Katy German 2:12:25
I'm sorry, this isn't really funny but I just imagined these amazing, beautiful batik print [masks] that match people's skirts. I'm sure that already exists out there somewhere.
Sarah Pilzer 2:12:37
Great. Maybe we can squeeze in one quick follow up to the questions about lawyers, is what type of lawyer would be best to ask these questions of?
Katy German 2:12:49
I just wrote, I wrote that down. So I'm taking notes. These are things I want to, I want us to research, and I'll try to get guidance on it and get a guest, at least one guest to come and join us at some point. That would be a great topic for the next chat, so thank you for asking those questions.
Thomas German 2:13:09
I did just see a comment regarding the temperature checks. There, I will say there hasn't been really great evidence for it, it is something that sort of makes us feel better about what we're doing. So some folks have said that this is a bit of theater that we do, just like we sort of put on masks with folks that we're right next to all day, that that's not actually doing anything. If you're working right next to somebody in a cubicle and you both have masks on, that's too much connection, you're gonna pass something. So, if we find that there's more evidence for that, then certainly that can be recommended. But again it may screen out a few folks, but for the large majority, it may not. So - but that being said, even the rapid test, like we said earlier, may come up negative, if people are trying to test before dances or test before dance weeks. All of those things may - are still not 100%. So.
Sarah Pilzer 2:14:11
Great. Well, we're gonna have to wrap up so we can stay on time, but we do have a record of all these questions and we will follow up on them as best we can. Thanks everyone. So before you leave, we do have a few wrap-up things. Back to you, Katy.
Katy German 2:14:31
Actually I'm tossing to Linda.
Linda Henry 2:14:32
Okay, next, there we go. So we're gonna send you home with some glimpses of links to resources available through CDSS. We have our Resource Portal. So if you go to the website, just search for that and many many resources, including COVID-related resources. We also have an online events calendar, crowdsourced lists of online events, and you can submit your own. And we have a way of - anyone who would like to support gigging artists, there is a link there that you can provide financial or other types of support.
Next slide. And here are more resources: the Resource Portal I just mentioned; Shared Weight is an online listserv that you can join. And we have grants that are available on a rolling basis, especially these days, we are offering funding for any group that wants to have an antiracism training. These Web Chats are on our website; you can see the video and PowerPoint and chat transcription. For this one, just in the next few days, if you check out that website, that website there. The articles in our newsletter for organizers are often included. And one-on-one support: if your group is having a particular issue, and especially during COVID, you can contact us and have someone be in touch with you.
We do want to encourage becoming a group Affiliate, and all that information is on the website, and joining as an individual member will help you make sure to receive announcements for future Web Chats.
Next slide. So, tomorrow you'll receive a feedback survey, and we would love to hear your input. We really take to heart all the input that we received from our participants to help us improve the Web Chats in the future. And like I said, you can see the video and chat bar and PowerPoint for this Web Chat within a few days. And if you have any friends that weren't able to join us tonight, make sure that they have access to the Web Chat website.
As I mentioned, we will be sending out announcements. And we do hope that you will all keep in touch - think of CDSS as your personal support, and let us know if there are things happening in your community that you need help with. And so there's the email right there: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katy German 2:17:40
Thank you, Linda. I also want to share that I welcome emails directly to me, email@example.com. I can't always reply to everybody quickly, but hearing from the community, learning from others, is one of the most amazing parts of being in this organization, and I think it's one of the most valuable things that we can share back. So if there are burning concerns that haven't been touched on, within reason, let me know. Reach out, and we will keep having these discussions, and we'll let you know when the next Web Chat's scheduled. And I thank you all for your questions, your participation.
And just, you know, we're all in the doldrums. We're all rounding a year. We're all wondering how much longer this is going to go on. But we've made it a year. We have learned so much. And we are working together in ways that are in some ways more healthy than ever before. That's a little bit - in my lifetime, I should say. Don't lose sight of that, and if you need to feel grumpy and defeated, let it be, don't worry about that. But just remember, you are leaders, and your community is counting on you. And thank you, thank you for everything that you're doing.
Sarah Pilzer 2:19:10
In June 2018, CDSS began a new Web Chat series to support organizers of dance, music, and song communities across the continent and beyond. For each Web Chat, a pertinent topic is chosen and guest organizers from communities having success with that topic are invited to share their valuable experiences and suggestions (Q&A included).
Next Web Chat:
Watch this space for updates about our next Web Chat.
Let's Talk About Reentry, Part 5:
News from Groups That Have Resumed In-person Events
Thursday, August 12, 2021
An online discussion for organizers of music, dance, and song communities
We've heard from numerous organizers that there is strong interest in hearing news from communities that have already resumed in-person events. This Web Chat provided valuable experiences and suggestions from two dance and song organizers who are already navigating their reentry, as well as perspectives from a public health professional.
We know caution is still high, especially as reports of virus variants fill our newsfeeds. Whether your group is still waiting or has a reentry event on the horizon, we hope that hearing other folks' experiences will provide information that helps in your planning.
Note: If your group has reopened your events and would like to pass along your experiences, please fill in this form. We’ll be posting results from this form on the CDSS website, and many organizers will benefit from your input. We’re all in this together!
Please see our extensive Reentry Resources for Organizers, designed to answer all your questions about returning to in-person events.
Let’s Talk About Reentry, Part 4:
Addressing Legal and Other Burning Questions
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
For this fourth Web Chat in our Let’s Talk About Reentry series, CDSS hired a lawyer to address some of our broader community’s legal questions. Other guests on our panel provided resources and considerations to help organizers chart your group’s course for safely emerging from the pandemic. Ultimately, each group needs to ask your own questions and find answers that are right for your location, type of event, and community. We’re all in this together!
Please see our extensive Reentry Resources for Organizers, designed to answer all your questions about returning to in-person events.
- PowerPoint Slides
- Video Recording (also embedded at right)
- Presentation Slides by Ann Marie Noonan
- Full Transcript
Note: During the Web Chat, this Waiver Template was shared by attorney Ann Marie Noonan for educational purposes. This template does not constitute legal advice, and individual organizations should consult their legal counsel. Attorney Noonan noted that waivers do not prevent groups from being sued; however, they may be helpful in the event of a lawsuit. She further reminded us that this is an emerging area of law and subject to change, and organizations should continue to stay on top of changes in federal, state, and local guidance and laws.
Let's Talk About Reentry, Part 3:
An MD Discusses Vaccines, and We Discuss Our Sector’s Needs
Monday, March 1, 2021
In this third installment of the "Let's Talk About Reentry" Web Chat series, we featured presentations and discussions about how the pandemic has altered our communities' needs and how we can best prepare for returning to in-person dancing, singing, and music-making.
Singing and Playing Music in REAL TIME!
An online discussion for organizers of song communities and open bands
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
Members of the Sacred Harp group FaSoLa Philadelphia (PA) and the Phoenix (AZ) Traditional Music & Dance Society joined us for this conversation. During this Web Chat, they shared their successes with using the computer program Jamulus to enable their groups to sing and play music in real time!
We know a return to in-person singing and jamming is on the horizon, but it will still take some time before it’s safe to gather in groups. Find out how these groups have tackled the challenge of creating online real-time song and music sessions.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
So much of what we love is on hold or shifting to online formats. But there will be a time when we dance together again. And there is work we can be doing during this down time to ensure a joyful and fulfilling return to the dance floor! In this second installment of the Let’s Talk About Reentry series, we talked about our evolving expectations for reentry, the changes we need to prepare for, and the important role organizers can play in preparing our communities for a bright future.
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Many organizers of song communities are finding creative ways to keep your community engaged and connected during the pandemic. In this Web Chat, we heard from organizers about experiences that are working well in their song groups. We featured a few guest speakers and took time for Q&A, open conversation, and breakout rooms.
July 8, 2020
This Web Chat was hosted by Katy German, CDSS Executive Director.
We addressed the BIG questions on organizers’ minds: How can we keep our communities safe in a pandemic? When can we dance and sing in the same place again? What does it mean to be a dance/music/song organizer when we can’t be together?
We were joined by several guests who provided their perspectives, including a dancing MD, a COVID contact tracer, a professional freelance musician, and music, dance, and song organizers from far and wide. We also included time for Q&A and open conversations in breakout rooms.
Yes we CAN keep in touch!
Connecting Our Communities During the Pandemic
April 29, 2020
Diversifying Income: Thinking Outside the Money Basket
February 12, 2020
- PowerPoint Slides
- Video Recording (also embedded at right)
- Chat Bar Transcription
- Shaking the Cushions – a PowerPoint from Web Chat guest Jennie Worden
This presentation provides many useful questions and suggestions to help each dance group assess which fundraising ideas will work best for their group. Ideas for additional income sources included.
Connecting Community Sing Organizers
October 16, 2019
Building Safe Dance Communities
July 11, 2019
- PowerPoint Slides
- Video Recording (also embedded at right)
- Chat Bar Transcription
- CDSS Community Safety Task Group Toolkit: This is a work-in-progress draft of the Safety Toolkit being produced by the CDSS Board's Community Culture and Safety Task Group. The Toolkit provides exemplar language, drawn from communities across the U.S. & Canada, to aid local leaders in drafting their own safety guidelines and policies.
Family/Community Dance Organizers Unite!
April 4, 2019
Increasing Youth Involvement
January 16, 2019
Creating a Thriving Open Band
September 20, 2018
June 21, 2018
- PowerPoint Slides
- Video Recording (also embedded to the right) - Note: We didn't capture the beginning of the chat. The recording begins with Jo Mortland of Chicago Barn Dance Company speaking.
Because the beginning of the Web Chat wasn't captured, we're offering the entire narrative from our first guest speaker on this page.
Jo Mortland was one of our speakers in our first CDSS Web Chat on Boosting AttenDANCE. Here is the full text of her presentation:
"Hi. This is Jo Mortland, from the Chicago Barn Dance Company. The agenda for today says I will “tell stories on how we have increased attendance”, and I’ve decided to actually tell it in story form. This will help keep me on track, highlighting the salient points. It might also be easier for the listeners to recreate the path of a new dancer.
My information comes from talking to many of our dancers, both new and experienced.
In the past three years, our average attendance has risen from about 40 to about 80. Part of this is due to the room we now use.
For the sake of this story, we will say that I am a middle aged woman in Chicago, and a couple of years ago was looking for something fun to do. I checked online, on Meetup.com, and saw a dance listed for Monday night. I decide to go.
The first thing I noticed about the Irish American Heritage Center was the large, free parking lot! In Chicago, this is a real plus! (Not mentioned in the story is that we are accessible to public transportation as well.)
Even better, when I reached the fourth floor ballroom, I found a beautiful, big, brightly lit, air-conditioned space with a wooden floor. My first impressions of this place were very positive.
I approached the admissions table, and was warmly greeted b the people sitting there. I was offered a name tag, and a coupon that would let me in to my second dance for free, if I returned within a month. I was informed that a lesson was about to begin.
Each week, the caller offers a lesson before the dance. I noticed that some experienced dancers joined in, to help. The caller taught us some of the basic “alphabet” – the moves that make up the dances - as well as some of the contra culture, like being able to ask anyone to dance, being allowed to decline an invitation to dance, and about our custom of dancing with different people for each dance. We, the newcomers, were encouraged to dance with different people as a good way to learn.
When the dance started, one of the experienced dancers who had helped with the lesson asked me to dance. During the course of the evening, a number of experienced dancers asked me to dance, some of them women. We had been told at the lesson that anyone can dance either part in this community.
I noticed that a few of the dancers had included their preferred personal pronoun to their nametags. I saw that this group is diverse in terms of not only gender, but also race and age. There were a couple of families who brought their pre-teen aged children to the event.
After the third or fourth dance, the caller made an announcement from the stage welcoming newcomers. He said that the Chicago Barn Dance Company wanted everyone to feel happy, comfortable and safe. He pointed out any Board members who were at the dance that night, and said that if we had comments, questions or concerns, those were the people to talk to. The Board members had buttons on with their names.
I was curious about his use of the word “safe”, as I felt perfectly comfortable. In the ensuing months that I danced there, I learned that Chicago had a male dancer in the past who behaved inappropriately with women dancers, particularly the new young women. The man had been talked to repeatedly, but continued with excessive touching and suggestive language. The man was told, by letter, to stop coming to the dances until the Board had a chance to meet with him. After that meeting, the Board felt that the man showed no concern over his behavior, and that there had been such a breach of trust between him and this community, that he was permanently banned. I was impressed that this issue had been dealt with.
At the break, there was a big selection of snacks, provided weekly by volunteers. The bar at the end of the room where the snacks were served made a good gathering place for schmoozing during the break.
A young woman, one of the Board members, introduced herself to me. She said that if I was comfortable giving her my email address, she would send me more information. I was quite comfortable with it, and within a couple of days, I received a message from her welcoming me once again, hoping I’d come back, and giving me the website address for Chicago Barn Dance Company (there are flyers out on a table for this also). In addition, she told me how to sign up for the weekly electronic newsletter, and how to join the Chicago Contra Friends Facebook page.
Once I looked at the Facebook page, I saw that a number of people had taken photos at the dance. And take photos at every dance. There I was in one of them, looking like I was having fun! And the people who were tagged helped me put names and faces together.
To summarize my first experience and why I continue to go to this dance, the space is excellent, the people are friendly and helpful, the community “invests” in newcomers, and the very active Facebook presence is a plus. All communities have their issues, as does this one. But this group has a lot going for them, too."