Web Chats

Summary Keywords

people, masks, pandemic, singing, question, zoom, sing, numbers, person, requiring, janice, song, sessions, events, organizers, sanitary, meeting, test, chat, minutes

Speakers

Nicki Perez, Linda Henry, Janice Hanson, Kimbi Hagen, Sarah Pilzer, Steve Deering

Linda Henry 00:00

Greetings from CDSS, and welcome to our Web Chat on singing together safely. I'm Linda Henry, our Community Resources Manager, and we'd like to thank each one of you for joining us this evening. It's a very important part of the CDSS mission to connect and support organizers of song, music, and dance communities. And we're very aware that you are the ones who are keeping these traditions alive. So the purpose of this Web Chat is to support your hard work, especially during the challenging times of the pandemic. So we'll start with some tech tips from Nicki Perez, our Gifts and Database Coordinator.

Nicki Perez 00:59

We are recording this Web Chat, so please turn off your video if you don't want to be recorded. Please do remain muted. There are captions for the video, and you can turn them on or off by clicking the closed caption symbol that says live transcript at the bottom of the screen. While we're screen sharing the slides, you can adjust their size by dragging the vertical line between the video and the slides. And the chat function is currently set to be delivered only to CDSS hosts. So if you're having technical difficulties, please send a direct message to Sarah Pilzer who will help you the best that she can.

Linda Henry 01:48

Next slide please. So we'll be hearing from two guests, Janice Hanson and Steve Deering, both of whom are representing groups that have been hosting singing events online and in person. And while they're speaking, you can enter any questions that you have into the chat. After we hear from Steve, we'll have a Q&A moderated by Sarah, with questions for Janice and Steve. Then we'll hear from Kimbi Hagen, from Atlanta, who will be talking with us about her vast experience from the public health perspective. And again, enter any questions you have in the chat and we'll have a second Q&A with her. At the end, we'll have five minutes for me to send you off with resources from CDSS. And we're trying something new this evening. At the official end of the Web Chat at 8:30, we'll have an optional time for socializing for anybody who wants to stick around for 10 minutes or so afterwards.

Before we start, CDSS would like you all to know that we're very aware of the challenges that the organizers of music, dance, and song communities have been experiencing during the pandemic. We've been receiving many questions about when groups can resume their events. Unfortunately, we are not able to give you a magic formula for when your particular group should start up based on the variety of considerations, including all of the COVID statistics that vary so much from across the continent. What we can do is offer experiences and perspectives from other organizers and resource people we know about, so you can hear from them about ways they have been keeping their groups safely connected during the pandemic. So we've chosen guests for tonight's Web Chat who can do just that.

So let's go move right along to our first guest, Janice Hanson. Here's a bit of information about Janice from Rochester, New York. Her group has been around for a long time and they have weekly sing arounds, so you'll hear from her about that. Also very recently she has news from her group about ways her board has been deliberating about how they will handle their events this summer, whether to resume in person or continue with their online singing events. So Janice, over to you.

Janice Hanson 04:56

Thank you for inviting me. I’ll start off by saying I am not an expert on singing safely together, at least the safely part of it. That's not something that I ever thought I would need to know about - aerosols and all the other things that we've all been getting very familiar with. During this time, we've been finding certainly that we have to keep being flexible, changing strategies as needed, and doing the best we can. I'll just be able to tell you about what our experience has been here in Rochester, New York.

I've been singing with the folks at Golden Link for nearly 20 years. Golden Link was founded in 1971, and for the better part of those 50 years, that has included a Tuesday night weekly sing around. We have a song circle with circles of chairs, and everybody is invited to either sing a song, request a song, or just listen. The requests are always fun, because you never know who's gonna be asking for a particular song. And we certainly have lots of interaction before and after. I think the gathering together part is the part that really has kept the community so strong for 50 years. So we usually get about 30 to 40 people at our weekly events. This is pre-pandemic time, but we would get about 30 to 40 people in the circle. And we invite people to add harmonies, bring instruments and add instrumental accompaniment, as long as they don't drown out the person leading the songs. So it's a very interactive time.

When the pandemic started in March 2020, we missed one week. And then we had one of our members say, “Well, I've got a Zoom account. Would you guys like to try singing on Zoom?” Obviously we all very quickly learned that you can't sing together because of the lag time. But we worked out a system to be able to let everybody have a chance, like we do when we're in person. Everybody gets a number, and we just basically go around by number. We have a person that's hosting it, welcoming people and talking to people. The chat during the sing arounds is certainly very active as well.

We felt like we had to keep doing something to keep the music going in our community. In June 2001, we explored some possibilities, and we ended up adding outdoor sing arounds on Sunday afternoons. Because it was outdoors, we couldn't really do it in the evening because it would get dark. The church where we held our sing arounds wasn't letting us in the building, except we got permission to use the bathrooms. So we set it up outside weather dependent and encouraged people to bring their own chairs. As people showed up, we would get their contact tracing information. And then I think we might have started with nine topics. By that point we weren't requiring people to wear masks unless they were not vaccinated. We weren't checking vaccinations, but we were asking people if they weren't vaccinated to wear masks. We had about 20 to 25 people coming for these in-person singing rounds. That picture that you saw was from one of our first weeks. I jumped up and snapped some pictures of people singing along together. And it certainly was wonderful to be able to do that. We did keep going with the outdoor singing sessions until the weather got cold. And then we had to kind of limit that. We did also have one instance in October of last year where we had one person we found out afterwards had tested positive for COVID. But because we had contact information for everybody, we sent an email to people with information on how to get tested. And we didn't have any positive results after that. So I think that was a pretty good success of being able to meet together when the weather permitted.

We did also have our Turtle Hill Folk Festival, which we do in September every year. And we held that in person. We had some singing sessions there and some workshops on singing. Some of that space was an outdoor pavilion with open air on the sides, which made it a lot more open to keep a free flow of air. So I think that also made people feel more comfortable with being able to sing together there. And we were asking people to wear masks when they were indoors. But if they were in an open space, they didn't need to wear masks. So we're still trying to figure things out, and it's a continual discussion of what we are going to do now. We have said from the beginning that we were going to follow the CDC and the state and county guidelines, and certainly we have to respect whatever is being asked of us by the venue we're using at the time.

For our ticketed events, we were requiring vaccination and masking until recently. But at last night's board meeting, we continued our discussion and we have some other things we've been trying to figure out. We are thinking that now we're gonna go back to doing Sunday afternoon outdoor sing arounds starting in June. We certainly have said that the Zoom sessions are equally important, so we'll keep doing those on Tuesday nights and keep doing both things. That was the bulk of what I had to say about in-person events. So what we've come up with so far is being able to sing outdoors in an open setting. We do have the use of the building, and we learned from the church that we were not in the same room. We were in a larger room, which doesn't have as good acoustics, but we have the possibility of using that. So we're hoping to explore the possibility of having singing outdoors if the weather's good, and being able to move inside if it's not. And the church will allow us to have up to 65 people with masks optional in the large fellowship room. So we're looking into that possibility.

Then the Zoom sing arounds was the other part that you wanted me to speak about. We started Zoom sing arounds on March 24. We only missed one week, when the pandemic started in February of 2020. We marked 100 Zoom sing arounds that we had done, and we had a special theme night and encouraged people to sing songs that had the number 100 in it. I told them they got bonus points, but I didn't know exactly what bonus they got. But anyway, it was an incentive to try to come up with songs that had the number 100, which was a lot of fun, despite the fact that it was marking that we had done 100 Zoom sessions.

For the format on Zoom, we try to duplicate in some ways what we do in person. Everybody gets a chance to sing, and obviously only one person can sing at a time. People will often exchange messages in the chat during the sing around. A lot of kinds of communication happens in the chat. And we let people clap in between songs and stay muted when they’re not singing. But at the end everybody claps for the person who's just gone, trying to keep it very equitable and giving everybody a chance to sing.

When we first started moving onto Zoom, our webmaster actually put together several pages of technical information that's up on our website in our sing around section, explaining to people how best to set up their computer for doing Zoom, how to set up your microphone, camera lighting, all of that. We all very quickly became tech experts on our computer screens. We did find one advantage of Zoom, and I'm sure some of you may have already noticed this too. People can attend from all over the world. And there's not any commute time, because you're just walking into your room where you have your computer setup. We've met a lot of new friends from all over the place. We had two out of state Zoom singers who enjoyed our session so much that they came to our Festival in September and they joined Golden Link. So that's been really, really great. We have participants from Kentucky, Philadelphia, California, Vancouver, and England who are coming every week. And we've even had some from Hawaii, Australia, and Japan. So we've made a lot of new friends that way. And we're planning to continue doing Zoom sessions in some form. I don't know yet if it'll be every single week. But what we're thinking we will do is if we go back to having in-person sessions on Tuesday nights, then Sunday afternoons will be when we have our Zoom sessions, and we’ll be able to keep growing that community of musicians. On Zoom, we have about 25 people each week.

Also four times a year when we were in person, we would do a Member showcase concert, where we would actually set up a stage area and microphones and really give people a chance to do a 20 to 30 minute showcase. And we've actually incorporated those into our Zoom sessions four times a year, where we'll have two featured spots at the beginning and then move into the regular sing around. I think that covers the two different sides of what we do.

Linda Henry 14:08

Great, Janice, it's so helpful. Everybody, notice on Janice's slide that the link to her website is there. And Janice, did you say that there's information about your Zoom?

Janice Hanson 14:23

There is a page about how-to tech, the tech tips on how to set it up. And he actually did separate things for if you're on a portable device versus on a laptop or computer. And he's been trying to keep it updated, although of course Zoom keeps changing. So if people want some additional tips that they can provide to somebody who might be new to this, certainly check it out. (www.goldenlink.org)

Linda Henry 14:46

Was it challenging for your board to be making the decision for the summer?

Janice Hanson 14:54

It was challenging and we've had all kinds of challenges on many fronts, probably also because we do a concert series, and we've ended up moving our venue for our concert series. And then it's okay, do we move the singer grounds to that location? We have storage on site and we normally have our archives and other things in that location. We've been looking at different venues. So yeah, it's been ongoing to try to figure out, and I don't think it's quite settled yet. But I'm hoping at some point, we will at least come up with a plan for the near future to move back to having our Tuesday night in-person gatherings. That's what we're hoping.

Linda Henry 15:40

Great. Okay, thank you very much, Janice. I want to remind everybody to be putting your questions into the chat. Now we welcome our next guest, Steve, from Vancouver. Here's a glimpse of his group, the Vancouver Folk Folk Song Society. He will be telling you a little bit about the event where this picture was taken. And one thing that his group is grappling with right now is what they'll be doing in relation to their annual week-long retreat. So Steve, take it away.

Steve Deering 16:23

Thank you, Linda. And thanks for inviting me to participate in this. So in listening to Janice, we have a very similar organization, all the same issues arise, all the same Zoom issues arise and so on. We don't meet quite as frequently. So the Vancouver Folk Song Society has been meeting twice a month on the first and third Wednesday of each month, since 1959. We also host an annual week-long retreat in late September that attracts attendees from beyond the Greater Vancouver area. So we get people from the rest of the province of BC, and people from Washington and Oregon typically come up for that. Since the pandemic shut down our in-person gatherings at the end of March 2020, like everybody else we've been meeting and singing together over Zoom instead. But in the last few months, we have started up our in-person gatherings again. And we're currently alternating between one in-person and one Zoom meeting each month. So the first Wednesday is in person, and the third is on Zoom. So let me talk first about the resumed in-person gatherings.

We started planning for that in late November of last year, hoping for a January start. But then the Omicron wave came along and knocked out that plan. So we didn't actually get started till the beginning of March. In that late November period, our provincial health authorities were allowing indoor choral gatherings. So choir practices and concerts were allowed to take place with a number of restrictions. In particular, attendance had to be limited to no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue, proof of vaccination was required to be presented at the door, masks were required to be worn by everybody all the time, except a performer or speaker could be unmasked if standing at least six feet away from everybody else. You had to provide hand sanitizer, and then there were more rules if you serve food and drink. So those were the provincial orders that allowed us to conduct our regular meeting.

What we didn't know was how comfortable our members would be gathering in person, given the very hazardous nature of our activity, which is singing with each other, and the discomfort of singing in masks. So we learned that we could have a lead singer be unmasked, but everybody joining in on the choruses would have to stay masked. And about the demographics of our membership - So we're mostly old folks, as you can see by that picture. There were mostly gray hairs. So of course, you're much more vulnerable to COVID. And none of our organizers, none of our board members are epidemiologists.

So we basically decided to just hold a test event and comply with all the orders to see how many people would show up, and then listen to their feedback afterwards. So that was the approach. However, we decided to add some additional measures as well. So at that 50% capacity limit, in our case, in the place where we normally meet is 25 people, so we're limiting it to 25. We decided not to have our traditional tea and cookie break in the middle of the evening, so that we didn't have to comply with the various additional rules for handling food and drink. We normally organize our chairs in a circle. And just like Janice was saying, we go around one at a time offering everyone a chance to lead us. But in the case of our recent in-person meetings, we're orienting the chairs theater style facing one end of the room. And then at the end of the room, we've laid down a line of tape on the floor, which is separated by nine feet from the first row of chairs and saying, “Okay, if you stand behind that line, and you want to lead a song, you could take your mask off. Otherwise you keep your mask on.”

We also decided instead of our normal tea and coffee break, we would still take a break in the middle of the evening, but we would open all the doors to ventilate. So we do that for 15 minutes, and we set up a couple of portable air purifiers with HEPA filters. So that's our set of safety measures.

We've now only held two meetings, one in March and one in April, and we're holding another one tomorrow night, employing all of those safety measures, even though the provincial public health orders have been gradually phased out over these last few months. So for example, the 50% limit was relaxed before our first meeting, and the requirement for masking was relaxed before our second meeting. And the last thing, the vaccine passports have been in effect but they've just been canceled. So tomorrow night we don't have to comply with that. But we are continuing to use all the same measures, maximally defending ourselves. Because the province said we're relaxing these mandates, but organizations are free and welcome to impose them themselves. So we set a limit of 25 people, and 24 attended our March meeting, 22 in April, and we have 20 people registered for tomorrow night. We actually require pre-registration by email so that we don't end up having to turn anyone away at the door. I don't know if that 24-22-20 attendance represents a declining interest. It's probably too few data points to make a hard conclusion there, but it's interesting.

The feedback from the folks who did attend our first two meetings has been uniform, firstly positive, both for the opportunity to sing and harmonize together again and for all the precautions taken. So people seem to appreciate that excess of caution, and it makes them comfortable enough to come. The ones who did come now, say we were getting 20 to 25 people showing up there, our Zoom sessions usually get about 40 people. So we still have a number of people who are not yet comfortable coming. We might even have one or two who refuse to come, because we're enforcing masks and they don't want to do that anymore. But at least for the ones who have shown up, they've been comfortable. And as far as we know, nobody's contracted COVID yet at one of our events.

Because the pandemic situation continues to be uncertain, we are just planning ahead a month at a time. So instead we do it in person on the first Wednesday and a Zoom meeting on the third Wednesday. Just before the third Wednesday, our board meets and we decide what we are going to do in the following month. Are we going to go ahead with an in-person meeting? And if so, what pandemic safety measures shall we take? We announce that at the Zoom meeting on the third Wednesday, and we email it out to our membership list. We are prepared to return to Zoom-only on very short notice, if the COVID situation deteriorates again. So that's basically where we're at, and so far so good.

Let me say a few words about our Zoom sessions, which I think might be quite a bit more structured than most similar organizations. We start our Zoom sessions at 7:30, and for the first 30 minutes we have what we call our main stage. So that's everybody in the main Zoom Room. They're individual reservable spots to sing on the main stage, and people apply for one of those slots by email starting tonight, the day before. Then you can request to be considered for a slot. And then we have a couple of MCs, and they go through the applicants and decide who's going to sing based on criteria like who hasn't sung recently, trying to get a good mix of male and female, of very accomplished musicians and more beginners, and basically make sure there's a nice balance. So it's at the MC’s discretion as to who gets those slots. And after that first 30 minutes, we create Zoom breakout rooms. We randomly allocate six to eight people to each room for a half hour, and among themselves they each do a sing around with just the smaller group. We bring everybody together, and then we randomize again for another 30 minutes. Then finally, we bring everybody back into the main Zoom Room, and then we have a feature performance by one of our members. And that's a 20 to 30 minutes set that's usually booked like a month ahead, so they have time to prepare an interesting set. Then finally that brings us to the end of the formal evening. Then there's an after-session with everybody staying in the main Zoom Room, and we treat it as a big song circle. That goes on for maybe until 11 o'clock at night, depending on how many people want to stay. So there are lots of opportunities for everyone to sing, or to play a tune, or to recite a poem, regardless of their level of confidence or competence.

As I said, attendance at the Zoom sessions is usually around 40 people, about a quarter of whom live outside the Vancouver area, but almost exclusively in the same time zone. So we have lots of regular attendees from Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and California. But perhaps because of our timezone, we haven't had a lot of attendees from eastern parts of Canada or the US or Europe, though we do have an Australian who has popped in a couple of times, and so on. But it's probably an awkward time for people in other areas to join us.

Just one last interesting observation is that we don't see any sign of Zoom fatigue yet. Though we've started offering the in-person sessions, people are still showing up in the same numbers for the Zoom sessions. And lots of them hope we don't stop doing the Zoom sessions because they live farther away, or they're not yet comfortable with meeting in person. So I think I have another couple of minutes, do I?

Linda Henry 28:07

You're fine.

Steve Deering 28:08

Okay, so I’ll just itemize a number of things that we're still struggling with and are currently open issues. So what is safe under what circumstances? And when shall we start to relax any of our COVID safety measures? As I say, we're now employing measures that aren’t required by law, but are appreciated by our members. Probably the first thing we'll drop is the vaccine passports. But that's all still up in the air. Shall we reduce the frequency of Zoom sessions or eliminate them altogether? This is a difficult decision because as I said, our Zoom sessions have attracted a number of regular members who live too far away to attend in person. And many of them have actually paid to join our organization, so we owe them something. On the other hand, our couple of in-person meetings have attracted people who we used to regularly see in person. They never participated in Zoom or only came to Zoom once and said, “That's not for me”. So it's nice seeing them back again. And then clearly, there are still some people who are close enough to attend in person, who aren't comfortable yet doing that, so they'll still come to the Zooms.

So that raises the issues of, shall we consider some kind of hybrid thing? Shall we stream our in-person meetings over the internet or shall we actually allow full hybrid where remote participants can be seen and then heard in the meeting place and everybody can see and hear everyone else? The place where we meet has been putting in facilities for that, including high speed internet connections, big screen TVs and so on for other events going on in the same venue. So that sort of technical facilities will become available to us. But we're really wondering whether or not that introduces people having to sit at a computer, maybe operate a camera, setting up mics, which we don't normally use, and might detract from the unplugged vibe that we really enjoy in our normal in person meeting. So that's an issue that we're currently grappling with. How much do we try to accommodate both in the same place? And will that ruin either or both?

And like Janice was saying, we're also considering having outdoor sessions in the summer. And we've started planning for our weekend retreat at the end of September, not knowing how many people will be interested in that, because of all that entails. That's held in a rustic retreat center with cabins with 60 beds in them and so on. Are people going to want to sleep dormitory style with a bunch of other people as soon as late September? And that's the big unknown. We're going to start organizing in the hopes that it might happen. But we're well prepared to say, if the numbers aren't there, we will go forward with that. Okay, that's enough for me for now, I think.

Linda Henry 31:38

Thank you, Steve. It sounds like your group has to be amazingly flexible and you're doing a great job. Okay, so next slide, please. And I'll introduce you to Sarah, who will be moderating our Q&A. Take it away, Sarah.

Sarah Pilzer 32:02

We've had a few questions come in in the chat, so please do continue to send those directly to me in chat. The first one is for Steve, though, Janice, if you have thoughts, feel free to chime in as well. Are there particular masks or specific masks that you recommend for singing? What has worked for your participants?

Steve Deering 32:24

We haven't set any standards requiring masks. We've basically said in our announcements we believe N95 class masks or masks that are designed specifically for singing are recommended, but we don't insist on it. And not everybody uses that. Again the provincial orders were never concrete about setting any limits there. So where we are is to recommend higher quality masks, but we don't require them.

Sarah Pilzer 33:03

Are there any you have found that work, like brands that work better for singers versus others?

Steve Deering 33:09

As I say, we've only done a couple of these sessions and a couple of people have shown up with masks that are specifically designed for singers. But we haven't researched it as an organization or done any comparison. Most people are using the N95. The ones where the bands are over your ears are most commonly available in the pharmacies around here.

Sarah Pilzer 33:38

Right? So no particularly comfortable masks.

Steve Deering 33:42

So it's unpleasant. You know, they get hot and sweaty and limp, and it's not fun. So some of our singers and some of the people when leading songs have decided to keep their masks on anyway. For example, that allows them to stand closer to the audience and with their guitar. They can be more intimate with the audience rather than standing at a nine foot spacing. But for people who do stand behind the line, the audience has now gotten the same. Reminding them you can take your mask off if you want.

Sarah Pilzer 34:19

Next question is for either Janice or Steve, or either of you. Are either of your groups doing contact tracing? It sounds like you haven't had a situation where people have said they tested positive. If that were to happen, would you then reach out to people who attended the sing and let them know? This person who asks said that they have a friend who is a local choir director who's trying to do that, but found that people don't mention when they're sick. Or if they do, it's only because they have to miss rehearsal or not come to an event.

Janice Hanson 34:55

We actually did do contact tracing in the summer. When we were doing outdoor singing sessions, we had somebody at the entrance as people were coming from the parking lot. They had a clipboard and wrote down the info, and most of them were people we knew. So all they had to do was write down their name, when they knew we had their contact information.

We did have one person who tested positive and notified us afterwards. We were able to let the people who were there know. And luckily, as well, we also had an event coming up that same week. It ended up that most of the people who were going to be volunteering at the event also had been at the sing around. So we told everybody who was going to help with volunteering that while they were going to have to do a test anyway, to and make sure they tested negative before they could volunteer.

Sarah Pilzer 35:40

Yeah, thanks.

Steve Deering 35:41

Yeah, we haven't. So because we require pre-registration, and we're doing checks of vaccine passports, we have an attendance list with the contacts, email addresses and phone numbers for the people who attend without collecting that separately for contact tracing purposes. We haven't ended up needing it, but now you ask the question. We haven't done this, but maybe we should have in our announcements to basically ask people, if you do test positive for COVID afterwards, please let us know. That's a good idea, and we haven't done that.

Janice Hanson 36:13

We did actually add that for our ticketed events. We required the things we did from October through March. We were requiring advanced registration only and for everybody who was buying a ticket, we had to get their contact information. So we were doing that, but we started discussing, “Will we need to keep doing that?” We're not sure, because it certainly doesn't seem to be something that the government or the county or anybody is requiring.

Sarah Pilzer 36:39

Great. Have either of your organization's explored the question of liability in the case of participants testing positive? Again, it sounds like this hasn't necessarily come up, but have your boards discussed what you would do in that situation, in terms of somebody trying to hold you responsible for their positivity.

Janice Hanson 37:05

It did actually come up at our board meeting last night, just briefly now we actually have a lawyer on our board. So he says, Well, let me know if anybody's suing us, and we'll figure out what we have to do. But I think just trying to be extremely cautious, making it very clear what we're expecting of people when they come to our events. And being consistent. That was actually one thing our lawyer said was being consistent with our messaging, making sure people knew if we've documented what we're sending to people and what we expect them to be doing. I think that helps to some extent.

Steve Deering 37:40

Yeah, we also talked about this. So we normally carry insurance for our events, you know, if people fall down the stairs or whatever. But in advance of hosting our first in-person meeting a couple months ago, we added directors insurance for our board members, which we probably should have done long ago anyways. But this made us think more about it, because of the potential risks that might arise. And the other thing was that we were very conscious about saying, here are the provincial regulations. We included a link to them in all of our announcements and mentioned that we are conforming to all of these, and basically to immunize us against any charges that we might be being reckless or irresponsible.

Sarah Pilzer 38:30

I'm not sure if you'll be able to speak to this question. But in some of our previous Web Chats, presenters talked about using different online apps that aren't Zoom, such as Jamulus, JamKazam, JackTrip, or some of those. Have any of you had experience with that? I think this question is also asking about the groups that we have had previously on our Web Chats. So maybe Linda would be able to speak to that part afterwards. But are either of you familiar with those? And if so, what's your experience?

Steve Deering 39:07

Yeah, a few of us have experimented with Jamulus. Obviously anything that would allow us to have synchronized singing online would be wonderful. But we quickly came to the conclusion that for our membership, it was just too complicated to make sure you've got the right drivers. We got it working between a few of us users of Apple computers, but it wouldn't work with the PCs, and you had to eliminate WiFi, you had to wear headphones, and there were all sorts of technical constraints to make it work sufficiently. It would be challenging for our membership, some of whom are joining on phones or tablets or anyone who would be struggling. So we looked at it and experimented with it and concluded it's not going to work for us.

Sarah Pilzer 40:01

Yeah, that was specifically mentioned in the question too, of getting users past the tougher tech requirements. Sounds like that can be a barrier for sure.

Janice Hanson 40:10

We never even looked at it. Since Zoom seems to be working for our purposes, we didn't look any further than that.

Sarah Pilzer 40:17

Great question for Steve, can you talk more about how you do the 30 minute breakout room sessions?

Steve Deering 40:24

Yeah, so Zoom has a breakout room feature. When you set up the rooms, one of the choices is to assign people to the rooms randomly. So you can either assign them manually, you can allow them to choose their own rooms, or you can have Zoom do a random allocation. And when you choose random allocation, in the dialog box you used to start to create the rooms (not to open them but to create the rooms), there's a little counter of how many rooms. As you change that counter, it tells you how many people it's going to put in each room. So we wiggle that till it's a number between six and eight. Then we just say Create, and that has worked well.

So people get randomly assigned to small groups for 30 minutes. That's enough time for everybody to sing at least one song. They can self organize into taking turns, usually alphabetically or however they want. And it's a short enough time that if you don't like the people you've been assigned to, you're not with them very long, and then we do another. So we do that twice in an evening. We randomize for another 30 minutes to mix up who you're with. Of course, because it's really random, you may still have the same one or two people in each of the two sessions. But it's something people have told us they particularly like about our sessions. They say that we're one of the few groups that do that. And they say it's very comfortable for people who are a bit shy, or beginners who don't want to be seen to the whole crowd. There is a much more supportive environment for getting people to try anything. You know, go ahead, read a poem, whatever you want. So yeah, we've been all set, yet it requires two techs and two MCs for each night we do this. So there's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes to make it look seamless to the people who are attending, but the feedback has been generally positive.

Janice Hanson 42:49

Wonderful. One thing that you just said was something about having techs. I didn't mention that we have three people behind the scenes for our things. Even though we don't have breakout rooms, we have one person that's the starter, and they're the one that has the credentials. We have to keep that to a limited number of people who know our passwords. And then we have one person who's the tech person who's assigning numbers and making sure people are muted. That's somebody who's just an emcee, just a host. So we divide that up a little bit.

Sarah Pilzer 43:17

It's very similar to how we're running tonight's web chat with staff from CDSS.

This isn't a question per se, but someone mentioned another app that you can use to sing together. It's called bucket list or I think, song bucket. It's run by Jeff Keller out of the Boston Folk Song Society, where you can build on each other. Bucket Brigade Singing. Thank you, that's what it’s called. So that's another app to write down if you want to give it a try. Right?

Here's a question on Zoom sessions. Do people bring their own stock books? Or is everyone singing from the same song book? Or do you put them up on the screen? Or what do you do?

Janice Hanson 44:14

Everybody's bringing their own song, and it's not a group singing in that way. In fact, we have a number of people who write their own songs. So they're not songs that are going to be in a song book anywhere. I am in another informal jam group that was meeting in a pub. That was just basically a “Sing Out” songbook sing, and for that people did bring books. We went to Zoom when we couldn't meet in person, and for that people are bringing their own songbook and call out page numbers and that sort of thing. But that's not what we do with the Golden Link sing arounds.

Steve Deering 44:45

Yes, we don't have a songbook that we normally use. We have a well-known repertoire. Because the same people keep coming over and over again, we have all learned many of the same songs. What some people do, especially if they're bringing a new song, is paste the lyrics of the chorus into chat. So even though you can't hear people singing along, they can sing along with it. And then, I think I mentioned earlier, one of the downsides of Zoom, at least for me, is that I've become very used to just reading my songs off the screen. As opposed to memorizing the lyrics, I become very lazy, because you can do that and get away with it. So normally, when we meet live, very few people use a music stand. The norm is to have memorized the words to your song. But we can get away without doing that over Zoom.

Janice Hanson 45:48

Our group would use music and music stands. Not everybody, but some people would. I'm glad of that, because I tried to find a new song every week or challenged myself to learn something new. It's hard to memorize all those every week.

Sarah Pilzer 46:03

Great, well I think that covers all the questions that have come in so far, but we have a few more minutes. So if anybody else has a thought that they want to share, send it to me in the chat. Otherwise, I think we can go ahead and move on, Linda.

Linda Henry 46:25

All right. So next slide please, Nicki. Welcome to our next guest Kimbi Hagen, who has many years of experience in the public health world, as well as being an English country dance and contra dancer, and a dance organizer. So this is a wonderful combination of experiences and perspectives that she is bringing to our web chat this evening. So Kimbi over to you.

Kimbi Hagen 47:06

Thank you so much for giving me a chance to come back. I really have enjoyed listening to these guests about their singing groups, because if you read my slide here, you'll notice that it says absolutely nothing about singing. Because in the town I grew up in Marietta, Georgia, I think it was actually written into the town charter that every kid had to be in a school choir. But I was the kid who was asked to lip sync in the school choir and the church choir. So I have a profound admiration for people who can sing, and I gravitate towards being the enthusiastic audience whenever I have that chance. So it's delightful to be here.

I've been asked to talk this evening about the public health implications of what y'all are trying to do as song leaders and organizers. So I’ll start with a few minutes of showing some slides about where we stand in the pandemic. And then I’ll answer questions that were submitted ahead of time by registrants for this program. And as new questions come up, either what you've heard before from the previous two speakers or anything I'm saying now, just go ahead and put it in direct message and we'll take it from there. But let me share my screen for a minute.

Before I get started, I'm going to answer one question that y'all had a moment ago about masks. I don't know whether or not y'all are using these N95s. See they have got that duckbill construction that creates extra space in front of your mouth, because it is absolutely true that it is not easy to sing in masks. I have a lot of friends, and like I said, I gravitate when people are singing. They say that the single worst setup is if you wear just the double layered fabric, because it just moves in and out. It kind of feels like it’s strangling your face. The next better option if you don't have something like this, is to wear just a medical mask underneath the cloth mask for reasons related to physics that I truthfully don't understand. It makes it a lot easier to breathe in and out forcefully as you do when you're singing. And then the next step up from that would be the one that I'm showing here on the screen that is designed to be not only safe, because it's an N95, but also to have, as I mentioned, the extra space in front of your nose, where you can breathe. So I just thought I would show that.

I'm going to stop screen sharing that for a moment, and then I'm going to go right back to showing the slides I had intended. So give me just a moment to get here. Okay. This is a general question people have been asking lately: How bad is the pandemic right now? And here is the answer: Let's see, we don't actually know. And here are four reasons we don’t know.

The first one is surveillance. In the height of the early days of the pandemic in 2020, we had mass testing sites. And as those have closed, we no longer get the data that those sites presented, and you only find cases of COVID where you're looking for it. So as the sites have closed, our surveillance numbers have gone down all over North America.

The second reason is reporting, which is very similar, because if people are taking home tests instead of going to mass testing sites, they're not reporting the results. I have talked with several friends who have had COVID and found out they had it by testing positive using a home test. When I asked them if they had called their doctor or the health department to report the results, so far the answer has been zero, nobody has. So I don't think that's an outlier in my experience of people not reporting. There are a lot of people who happen to have COVID but are not reflected in the official numbers.

The third reason is just politics. There's been a real push as the testing sites are closing down is instead of using test result numbers, to use hospitalization numbers. That's great, because those numbers are a lot more solid. You know, you can count noses of people who were in the hospital with COVID. But that number is going to be delayed because people have to be really sick before they show up in the hospital. So the numbers that you see actually reflect a reality that started a couple of weeks before that. So the numbers, again, are probably low and not accurate.

The fourth reason, as Mark Twain is highly credited with saying, is that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. And this is what Mark Twain was talking about. On February 25, 2022, this map was on the CDC website. This slide is just showing the United States. (Canada does not appear.) But on this map, roughly 90% of all the counties in the US were listed as having high and sustained community transmission rates. On that same day, on February 25 2022, that map disappeared, and this one was put in its place. Through the miracle of time turning, this map now showed what apparently had happened the previous day, on February 24, when only 30% of the counties were showing high transmission. What happened, how, what changed? Well, what changed were the rules about how you count transmission. They raised the goalposts, raised the bar or whatever sports metaphor you want to use. But it's now about 20 times harder, 20 times more difficult to have your county declared to have a medium or a high or even a low transmission rate.

So the number of people with COVID did not change overnight. But the maps did. And it's those maps that are driving the government rules that you have all been quoting for use in your decisions. People talk about the numbers going down, but they're not really going down, only the reported ones.

So this is a quick factoid about the CDC. This is an aside, and I've not let people know this, but they've actually changed their name four times since they first came into being in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center. And as my friend Pam Edson suggested in 2022, they probably need to change it one more time. Okay, so given the fact that the numbers are squishy, where do we stand globally? Over half a billion people have confirmed cases again. That number is low, I guarantee you. And if you look specifically at the Americas, we've got 153 million cases so far, of which 30% are collectively between the United States and Canada, the others are in the rest of the Americas.

So that's where we are. But, you know, that was history. The question is, how is the pandemic over now? Isn't it if mass rules are dropping, vaccine passport rules are dropping, how bad is it now? Well, this is just the Americas, this is not the globe. This is from the World Health Organization. And what I want you to notice is that at the time masking and vaccine passports started to drop away, the numbers started to skyrocket. It's not a good idea yet to be holding events without asking people to wear masks and without asking people to have to be vaccinated and to be boosted, particularly as our singing groups through CDSS do tend to skew towards older people.

Now, within the last couple of months, there has been a tipping point. And the people who were hospitalized and are dying from COVID are no longer principally the people who weren't vaccinated. Now, we're actually seeing it tip the other way, to a slight majority of people who are hospitalized and dying, who are in fact vaccinated and boosted. So it's out there. This is what a pandemic curve looks like. So I'm gonna show you where we are right now. But it just starts with when only animals get it, and then from animals it jumps across species into humans. And then you have the sustained period where it starts passing from people to people. Then you get to the part we've been living in for the last two years, the pandemic. And then eventually you get to the part where it begins to taper off. Although there's always a chance it could come back when a new variant shows up, and then this Edenic world we are hopefully to be living in sooner or later called post-pandemic. Right now, according to Tony Fauci, whom I trust scientifically, we're right there. We are at the last edge of the pandemic phase. We are not yet at post peak, even though we would like to think we are. We are getting there, but we're not there yet.

So how are we going to know when we're post pandemic? There are a lot of definitions, because we're all making this up as we go along. But this is the one that works for me. That would be that not when we have zero COVID deaths, but when we don't have any more COVID deaths than we would normally see in a year. When we have like a bad flu outbreak, because people do die from respiratory infections. And if we were to have just the same or fewer COVID deaths as we would in a standard flu year, then we could perhaps say that we've now reached the point where COVID is like background noise, like we're used to with respiratory diseases.

So from a practical standpoint, what that means is that we should have less than one COVID deaths per 2 million people in a population per day. How does that play out in the United States and Canada? If you take that formula, and you put it up against the population of the United States, the population of Canada, if we had 165 COVID deaths a day in the US, and 19 COVID deaths a day in Canada, we could say, by this definition, and this was sustained, not just okay, it was between bots from the different cycles of the pandemic. But if this was saying, we can say we've done it, we're in post pandemic phase. So where are we right this minute? As of yesterday, the United States had about twice as many target deaths, and Canada had two and a half times as many target deaths, deaths per day from COVID. So we're not there yet. We are not in the post pandemic phase.

I'm going to stop sharing, did I stop sharing? I can't actually see, will somebody put their thumb up if I stopped sharing my screen? Cool, okay. Thank you. That was your epi primer. I'm going to now go to the questions that we all submitted ahead of time.

The first one is: Is the pandemic over? which I already covered. People generally think the pandemic is over. They thought the pandemic was over the day they stopped requiring masks on airplanes. Just the general public says that was the day it ended. I'd like to point out that the judge, the federal judge in Florida in the United States, has single-handedly overturned the CDC’s law abiding mandate requiring masks, and that was using really bad public health interpretation. Her interpretation was based on the word sanitary that appears in the law saying that the CDC has jurisdiction over sanitary issues related to public health. Here's the deal. In 1946, when the CDC charter began, the word sanitary meant something different than it does now. Back then, sanitary referred to health and wellness. People in the 1940s took sanitary precautions in the form of masks to prevent tuberculosis, as they call them sanitary precautions. If you got tuberculosis anyway, in the 1940s, you were sent to a sanitarium. So sanitary meant those actions that prevent and treat health and wellness in the modern era.

Now in 2022, we've really narrowed our accepted definition of sanitary to mean clean. I don't know about y'all, but we used to do a lot of traveling when I was growing up, and we would go to these motels on the side of the road. They would have a little strip of paper over the toilet seat, so you would know this had been sanitized for your protection. So the idea is that sanitary means a physical action to clean something, and the judge says, wearing masks on airplanes unless you've removed it to clean up a spill on your tray is not sanitizing anything. So the CDC has no jurisdiction over sanitary masks, because it's nothing to do with sanitation. It's a complete misreading of that, because the definition changed over time. So that's it. So please do not place too much of your own personal decisions about your groups in relation to singing based on what the regulations are. Because the regulations are increasingly coming out of data that is fuzzier and fuzzier. They are coming out of legal decisions that are really off base and our misinterpretations for it.

One question was, What percentage of people in the United States have had COVID? Today six out of every 10 people in the United States have been infected with COVID. A lot of them were completely asymptomatic, or very, very mildly symptomatic, and were only discovered when they were tested for some purpose. But while they were in the three days or so before they began to show any symptoms, they spread it well if they weren't walking around wearing a mask being very careful, which in today's reality, with masks, mandates falling down, they probably are walking around without masks on.

The next question was, How many people in the United States have died from COVID? 991,000, closing in on a million today, if the rate that we're having right now were to stay steady. We'll hit a million around Memorial Day weekend, which would be totally ironic. A million deaths from COVID. To put it in perspective, that would equal all of the US and Canadian soldiers who died during World War Two. And it would equal 17 Vietnams. It's a lot of people.

Next question: How far do some aerosols travel? Okay, now that's going to depend on the force that you are projecting, you know, the more force behind it. This is assuming you're not masked, the farther they're going to travel. When you are speaking, aerosols can go 20 to 30 feet. If you are singing with any great gusto, which of course you do, they're going to go farther. And because they're aerosols, not droplets. Droplets and aerosols are not the same thing. Droplets are like what you can see when you sneeze on the counter. Aerosols are invisible, they’re just kind of hanging in the air, and they can hang in the air for a really long time. Probably longer than your singing session is on a given night.

Next question: Does social distancing still apply for singing indoors? If all are vaxxed, yes it does. Because people who are masked and boosted can still have COVID. They're the ones that, as I said that, that it's tipping more towards people being hospitalized who are vaxxed. So just because you're vaxxed, doesn't mean that you shouldn't be thinking with concern and compassion for the rest of the people in your group, thinking how can I protect them? If I am not completely certain, am I free of the virus? Well, one of the ways you can protect them is for you all to socially distance from each other, vaccines are not.

Next question: Is singing considered more risky than chatting or morris dancing, or about the same? Well, okay, the least risky is going to be chatting. While you're talking, your aerosol is going 20-30 feet, but you can chat from a distance. It's possible to do that, unlike morris dancing, which is the most risky, because Morris dancing is a very vigorous activity that involves many moves that take you very close to the person, you know, the other people in the side. So here you are breathing hard with people, so that's going to be riskier than just chatting, because you can't socially distance while you're morris dancing, well, not easily. Singing is going to fall in the middle because you're injecting aerosols more forcefully than chatting, but you can be socially distanced. So it's not all the same. So from least to most is going to be chatting, singing, morris dancing, or I should have gone the other way. Chatting, singing more sensitive, then morris dancing.

Question about update on current theory of how COVID is spread. Is it still droplets? Yes, it is still droplets, and it's aerosols. As I was saying it's both of those. Depending on how hard you cough, droplets usually land about six feet away. But they're visible, so you can see if you can avoid them. Aerosols are harder because they hang in the air, and you can walk through them. You can reduce your risk, of course by wearing a mask, which leads into the next question:

If you're the only person in the room with a mask, can you be safe? Well, you're not going to be safe, but you've heard by now that the saying is my mask protects you, your mask protects me. So this is true. Safety is when other people are masked, but you are protecting yourself to a large extent when you are masked. So even if it's a mask optional event, you can increase your protection by being masked. A friend of mine here in Atlanta who was vaccinated, boosted and masked is dealing with really severe COVID. As we speak, she has no idea where she got it. But at some point, she was in a room with someone, and she walked through somebody's aerosols. And they were not masked, because they were able to inject the aerosols, so I am guessing that person had no idea they were infectious. But vaccinated and boosted, it's still a big deal. So wear a mask, even if others aren't.

Question: Are rapid tests less accurate with Omicron? Are there any other options? There are two options for rapid tests: one you can have at your house in your kitchen, and then PCR tests which you usually do spitting into a tube instead of sticking a stick up your nose. The problem with the PCR tests is that they can be false positive. Not that they show people are infected when they're not, but they can show that you test positive after you stopped being infectious. So if you take a PCR and you are in fact past the infectious stage, you might still show up positive on a PCR test. So the other rapid test suffers from a false negative. I know of one person who had COVID who tested positive on a PCR test and negative on a rapid test. So it’s possible to show up negative when you are positive.

Really the best is that if you suspect that you have COVID, either because you've had an exposure to it, or you start to feel bad, you could take a rapid test three to four days after your exposure, because it will definitely be a false negative up until then. And then if you have any question in your mind, go get a PCR.

Question: How will we know when the time is right to start up again, if we don't want to start and stop? From what I've said, there is the turning on of the COVID pandemic like a light switch. There was a time in March 2020, when CDSS knew it was time to call a halt to singing, dancing, and music events. It was a light switch, and the turning off of the pandemic is going to be more like a dimmer bulb that’s going to come up slowly. It may go back down again, it may go back up again. And as song organizers, your job is going to be really hard. It's going to be trying to convince people while we're not completely dark again on the pandemic, while that dimmer bulb is still showing some light, to convince people to stay safe.

It isn't gonna be easy, because probably if you truly, truly, truly don't want to start your song group up again until we are in the post-pandemic stage, you're going to need to wait probably until the number of deaths per day is roughly equal to what we've experienced with with influenza with the flu. And that's going to be a while. I don't have a crystal ball that works well. But I'm pretty sure we haven't seen the last of the variants. I mean, we've gotten through Omicron. Now they're just giving them bizarre numbers. I just refer to the current one as Son of Omicron, but there's going to be more. So I don't know. You're going to need to decide. I would just urge you not to wait until we are completely post-pandemic. Don't wait until we're all the way there. Singing is too important as a community-building activity. It just brings so much joy into people's lives, particularly people like me, who can't carry a tune in a bucket. We need you. So I would really urge you to listen to the experience of the people who presented before and think your way around how you can do this in a safe manner. And if you have to stop, just stop and start again. And if you have to stop a second time, just stop a second time and then start again.

Last question: As organizers, how can we give people the comfort and reliability that they need and associate with our singing events? At a time when things are so uncertain in the world? Well, the first thing I'd say is it's because things are so uncertain in the world that we need your singing events. This is the exact moment for them. The last time I gave a Web Chat for CDSS I came up with an acronym on the fly, which I love because it's very music oriented. It's Vamp, V-A-M-P: vaccines, air movement, masks, and personal responsibility. If you, as an organizer, can be strong and ask people even when vaccine passports fall by the wayside, ask people to be vaccinated, show their card.

You can ask people to wear masks and give them different kinds of try, do what Steve was saying. Put a blind way over there on the other side of the football field where they can stand unmasked behind that. There are workarounds for this, but masks are going to continue to be important.

Air movement: the best way to deal with aerosols is to make them go away with air movement.

And then personal responsibility: We all recognize that we owe a debt of humanity and of civility to our friends, to our neighbors, to strangers. And don't try to game the system. Yeah, just if you don't feel well stay home. Stay home. If you feel like you did that, go ahead and call. It sounds like you all are putting together contact tracing procedures. Make use of that as people to show some personal responsibility for that.

Beyond that, when I got this question, I started calling around to my friends who do a lot of singing. They said that when you are doing a live event, if you're in masks, here’s a really good thing to do. (This is not my idea.) Their suggestion is to try to stand in a circle, and deliberately make eye contact with the person across the circle from you, rather than just singing into the distance in the middle. Make eye contact with somebody so that you are having a connection.

They also suggested that you do rounds, because when you're doing a round, you're touching somebody else's song. Your singing is touching their singing. And that kind of creates a sort of aural sense of community that will promote closeness.

The third suggestion they had – and this is where I'll stop so we can take any questions, if any have come up – they said is song choice. I said this might be the time of our lives where we want to embrace more of the “Onward Christian Soldiers” than the “Amazing Grace.” We want songs that will make catastrophe bring you joy, more than the sadder, smoother, silkier songs, although of course they have gorgeous opportunities for harmony. But this might be a time when we really want to deliberately use our voices to bring joy. So those are the three suggestions when I asked around after receiving that question. Thank you, again, for inviting me. I love this.

Linda Henry 1:16:41

Thank you so much Kimbi for giving us such great stuff to be taking home with us. So Sarah, I think we have just about five minutes left for Q&A.

Sarah Pilzer 1:16:59

Great. Yeah, a few questions have come in. Do you know about COVID surveillance on the sewer system of wastewater? In particular, if you happen to know about New York State, but just in general as well?

Kimbi Hagen 1:17:14

Yeah. Well, as it turns out, one of my colleagues at work at the School of Public Health does that. Safe water is her field of expertise, and their wastewater surveillance is excellent, because you can pick up COVID in wastewater. If you understand the math, which I don't, you can actually make pretty good predictions about how many people in your community might be infected with it. The trouble is that it requires training that is not present in all the communities. So wastewater surveillance is not widespread. And I would think it would be highly available in New York City, a big city with lots of schools of public health. But I suggest you Google wastewater surveillance, New York, see what pops up.

Sarah Pilzer 1:18:03

This person knows families that have had COVID twice with different mutations. Do you know if they're being counted twice? And the numbers?

Kimbi Hagen 1:18:12

That's an intriguing question. I don't know whether they would be counted twice. My guess is they would be, because they're counting cases not people. So if you show up twice, they're going to put you down twice, particularly if they are able to document that you've got a different mutation, because they also want to know how many cases of Delta we have and how many cases of Omicron we have. So probably, but that's just me guessing.

Sarah Pilzer 1:18:41

We have different versions of this next question, which is, how does having a beard affect your mask fit? Does the edge seal for your N95s?

Kimbi Hagen 1:18:54

Yeah, if my husband were here, he could show you how much I love guys in beards. So it is an issue that we deal with in our own household. That is an example of where you might want to just do some shopping, because there are lots of different masks out there on the market and they fit differently. So you want a mask that's going to come under your chin, and you want a mask that’s going to be able to not have air leaking in and out of it. Ah, Steve is holding one up. He likes that one.

Sarah Pilzer 1:19:35

If somebody is wearing a mask with a beard and it's not perfectly sealed, do you have a sense of how much that degrades the protection?

Kimbi Hagen 1:19:45

Well, it's what I have said. This is one of the things we do with my husband. When he's got his mask on what was his beard, I have him put his hands right here. And he breathes out really hard to see if he can feel the air. If he can feel the air, then we have to keep messing with it. If you can't feel the air, we're okay. It's obviously not 100% because the beard is creating a space, but it's pretty darn close to 100%.

Sarah Pilzer 1:20:13

This is related to that map you showed with the new green, yellow, and reds. How would you say are those adequate for making decisions about dancing or singing? Can we sing in the green but not the red? What's your opinion?

Kimbi Hagen 1:20:30

My opinion is that the CDC was under astonishing political pressure to change the way the numbers were reported in terms of what was considered low, medium, and high. You know, Congress provides the money that keeps the CDC doors open, so they have to follow what Congress says. But other than saying that, if I'm in an area that shows high, shows medium, shows low, that tells me something relative to other parts of the country, but it does not tell me the truth about how much COVID I've got in my community.

Kimbi Hagen 1:21:22

You know, you saw the two maps, the one that was marked February 24 showed 20 times less, 30% of the counties had high transmission versus 90%. And then, you know the one on February 25. I don't really think it was just interesting, the way that they kind of rolled back time, and at the same time they changed the definition. So use it to show you like this area of the country seems to be showing up with an increase in numbers, recognizing that the numbers themselves are no longer being as adequately collected. It's very fuzzy. I wish I could say differently, but it's just true for the reasons that I laid out before. We can no longer really trust. All we can know for sure is that whatever reporting is low is probably a lot higher than what is being reported.

Sarah Pilzer 1:22:25

So would you say that, rather than trusting or using the low, medium, high, look at the actual number itself and make a determination based on your level of comfort with that Trump transmission level.

Kimbi Hagen 1:22:38

There's a whole bunch of places you can find by Googling that will show the COVID numbers in your province, your state, your city, your county. Depending on how finely tuned the different websites are, you can look at those numbers. I'm just going to keep drumming this in until it is etched into your song organizer DNA. As long as you look at those numbers and go, Okay, that's the bottom number that it could possibly be. The actual number is higher than what I'm looking at, by some undefined measure. So okay, actual numbers are better. I love that my office is across a small two lane road from the CDC, and I can feel the desperation emanating from the building on a daily basis. I feel so bad for the people who work at the CDC, because this is not their fault. I don't think you can really make decisions based on them anymore.

Linda Henry 1:23:45

Okay, I think we'll wrap it up there.

Sarah Pilzer 1:23:49

Any other questions that we didn't get to? We'll have to send answers after the Web Chat.

Kimbi Hagen 1:23:54

Yeah, I always talk too much.

Linda Henry 1:23:56

Kimbi, everything that you have shared with us is important for us to know.

So we will wrap it up by sending you home with some resources. Nicki, next slide. So I'm just gonna run through these very quickly.

These are our online programs that are coming up. And I want to especially let you know about the Song Organizers Intensive that's happening at Pinewood this summer for one week. This is a chance to meet with Nicole Singer and a group of organizers and talk throughout the week about ways that you can support each other with your song groups.

Next slide. Another glimpse of intensives and courses that are happening at our camps. Visit camp.cdss.org for more information.

Next. On our website, we have the CDSS Resource Portal, and we have specifically a COVID section. You can find resources for organizers there. We also have an events calendar. And we have a fairly new resource where you can click on entries from about 30 different groups to see their firsthand expense experiences with reopening their events.

Next. Here's a list of more resources for organizers: the Resource Portal that I just mentioned; Shared Weight is a listserv for organizers; we have a grants program if you are needing funding for a specific event, etc.; Web Chat series of course; our CDSS newsletter often includes articles for organizers; and one-on-one support from staff members.

By the way, there has been a Web Chat that was specifically about singing and playing music in real time using Jamulus. So you can check that out using the link cdss.org/web-chats where you can find information about that Web Chat and all the others that we've had. Also, here's a mention of our option to become a CDSS Affiliate and a link for more information.

Next slide. So these are many ways that we have been putting resources together to support organizers. And here's a way that you could be supporting us. These Web Chats have been happening for four years now. We always choose the topics based on the feedback that we receive from Web Chat participants. These have been free of charge for this entire time, and the only way that this has been possible is by membership and donations.

So here's a link for information to become a Member and/or make a donation, and any amount would be very helpful. So this is a way that you could help us keep these Web Chats going.

Next slide. So in the next day or so you'll be receiving a survey, and we would love to have your input. This is a chance for you to make a request for future Web Chat topics. Also, if you have a question that was not answered during this Web Chat, you can enter your question there, and we'll find the answers for you. So stay tuned. We'll be sending out announcements about the next Web Chat in a few weeks. And we are always happy to hear from you with your questions, comments, and requests (resources@cdss.org is the way to reach me). Please remember that we are here for you. Any way we can learn about what you need helps us create new resources for you.

Next slide. So we've come to the end of our time together. Thanks again for joining us. We're really glad to see each of you, and we hope that you've been able to glean some ideas and connections and fresh energy to bring back to your group. We'll end in just a minute or two. And for those of you who would like to hang around and socialize for a bit more, we're going to do an experiment and try that out. Thanks again to Steve and Janice and Kimbi for all the time that you spent getting ready for this Web Chat. We really appreciate all your experiences and perspectives. And I'm sure if all the people on this Web Chat were able to, they would be giving you big hugs. So goodbye to all except for those who want to stick around.

Summary Keywords

dance, people, mask, dancers, events, vaccinated, questions, dancing, pandemic, sherry, week, eric, callers, community, person, test, required, bloomington, slides, janine

Speakers

Eric Schedler, Sarah Pilzer, Katy German, Sherry Nevins, Janine Smith

Katy German 00:01

Welcome, everybody. We are so glad that you're here tonight. I know people are still joining, and we'll just kind of welcome them in as they come. But we are really thrilled to be talking with three fantastic organizers tonight and hearing about how they are prioritizing safety and holding in-person events. And I know this is on a lot of folks’ minds right now. We are going to, let's see, let's advance to the next slide. Great.

So here's the format for tonight. We will have a little bit of logistics. I'm going to share some opening thoughts. Then we'll move right into the panel discussion portion with Sherry, Eric, and Janine. Following the panel discussion, there'll be a Q&A. And there are a lot of us on tonight, so we're going to stay muted. But you'll be able to submit your questions via the chat bar, and then staff will read it out. And we'll get as many in as we have time for. Following the Q&A, I'm going to talk about some resources. And I know that's kind of a standard spiel for us. But there's something a little bit special and exciting tonight. So I'm not going to tell you what it is. I'm going to ask you to stick around until after the Q&A and hear about a new resource that we are working on. And then we will say good night in a timely fashion because we are dancers and we always end on time, don't we? So without further ado, I'm going to toss it to Sarah, who's going to talk about tech tips for tonight.

Sarah Pilzer 01:39

Great! Hello, everybody. Welcome and...um, Crispin...I realize one of the first things that I'm going to talk about is, we have spotlighted Katy and Eric and Sherry and Janine so that their videos should show up next to the slides on your screen. If you want to change that view, so you can see other people besides the four of them—including myself, maybe—you can go up to the corner of your screen where it says view, and you should be able to switch between speaker and gallery there. But we do recommend keeping it in speaker view during the presentation so that you can see all of our speakers. There's a vertical bar between the slides that are being shown and the speakers' videos. If you want to enlarge one or the other, you can drag that bar to the left and to the right to change the size in case the slides are too small to read or you want to see the big videos.

Other than that, standard Zoom etiquette: Please remain muted. The chat currently is set to only go to hosts and co-hosts. So that's myself, the other CDSS staff members. And that is how you should submit your questions for the panelists, and then as Katy said, we will read them during Q&A later today. So feel free to put your questions in at any time during the panel, but we're going to be answering them all at the end during Q&A. And yeah, lastly, we are recording this. So if you don't want to be seen, just keep your video off. All right, back to you, Katy.

Katy German 03:15

Thanks, Sarah. All right. Next slide, please.

So some opening thoughts for me. I want to just talk for a minute about what this conversation is and what it is not. This is not meant to represent every possible choice out there. This is a focused conversation, where we are hearing from people who are holding in-person events and taking measures—making adjustments—to prioritize safety. There are people out there who have been holding events or are holding events without these adjustments. And there are people out there who are not ready to start holding events—do not feel that it is right for their area or their community right now. We know that this is not where everybody is right now. So this is for people who are considering or have started in-person events. And I just want to be really clear about that.

The panelists are all also from urban areas, and they may not be dealing with the challenges that smaller towns and rural areas face. [This was] definitely also pointed out by Penn Fix—I don't know if you're on here, Penn, but thank you very much for that—that in the areas where these folks live there's a lot of political alignment and support for vaccination. And in some areas, not only is there not any support, or not as much of the social, general, public support for vaccination and masking, but there are states in which it's actually illegal to require masking at events that are open to the public.

So again, this is not going to speak to those challenges. And I am sorry that we can't talk about holding dances in those areas tonight; we only have an hour and a half.

CDSS is still not able to provide anybody a formula for determining the right time or when it's safe to return to dancing. That's not what this is meant to be. What we can do is share experiences that everybody's having, so that we can learn from each other.

And that leads me to what we're going to talk about after the Q&A, which is a way that we can all work together, that you can help us, you can help everybody learn from each other's experiences. It's hard when we're not on the same page, but it's not hopeless. I've talked before about how I think of all of this post-pandemic or pandemic decision-making as kind of a clinical trial where we're choosing which path we're on, we have to be able to listen to each other and learn from experiences. And we're not going to be able to do that if we're fighting the whole time.

So this is really meant to be a space where we're talking about holding in-person events, with safety measures. This is not a space for attacking, for condemning, or being rude. I will not tolerate it. So we're just not going to do that. Finally, if you're thinking about starting up again, CDSS is recommending that you take steps to reduce the risk of transmission. Again, what you're able to do is going to be different depending on where you live, whether or not you can hold public events. There are groups that are working around that. I know that we've heard from folks in Florida who are hosting private events, but that's a different conversation. That's not this conversation. Please do continue taking steps to keep your community safe.

Okay, so, without further ado, I would love to start hearing from our panelists today. Next slide, please.

So today's guests are Sherry Nevins from Lake City Contra. Hi, Sherry. Eric Schedler from Bloomington Old Time Music and Dance group in Bloomington, Indiana. Great. And Janine Smith from Glen Echoes “Take Hands Four, Please,” an independent contra. Wonderful. And I would just like to point out, just for a moment, this little map. I would like to say that none of these folks, or me, are in New England. Okay, that's it. We're doing our best. Okay, next slide.

So our first question tonight: What key factors determine your decision to reopen? And we're going to start with Sherry. And I'd love to hear about your thoughts leading to your decision to reopen.

Sherry Nevins 08:02

Sure. First, I've got to say a huge thank you to Katy and CDSS for doing this, because the previous web chats about reentry were very helpful to me and, I'm sure, for a lot of other people. And CDSS also made it possible for us to stay dancing in some way with all the virtual dances that went on and are still going on with the pandemic. However, what we were seeing with the virtual dances is that there was a pretty solid community that was turning out to just about all the virtual dances, but not a lot of our local dancers, callers, or musicians. So there was a lot of concern.

We all had that same concern: What's going to happen when we can dance again? Are those people going to just bounce right back? Are they going to go off and have found other hobbies, or what's going to happen? And so that was a big factor.

The other thing was we were getting kind of tired of Zoom, and the Zoom audiences were shrinking and shrinking as people were getting kind of tired of being on Zoom. And also, once vaccinations were possible, it was time to start thinking about how can we do this? So we started talking to our communities and started talking to our health professionals. And that's the next question: What indicators did we use? But it was pretty much wanting to see how to get our way back to the dance halls.

Katy German 09:35

Great. Thank you, Eric. How about you?

Eric Schedler 09:40

Well, hello, everybody. Thanks, Katy, for organizing this discussion. I think our dance group in Bloomington, Indiana, was a little bit unique in that during the pandemic, our official dance group, Button and Board, organized our online dances. So we stayed active as an organization throughout the pandemic, and we have been a weekly dance, a Wednesday dance. And we continued weekly in the pandemic. And so for us, it was a decision of when do we transition from online events to in-person events because we were pretty much committed to doing something every week.

And we actually reached that decision last June before delta, when it seemed like everything was safe if you had a vaccinated group. And we did hold a community meeting with our membership a few weeks before that point to talk about [whether] this was at the point where everyone who had been coming to our online dances had been vaccinated. We held a community meeting to see where people were at with getting together again. And we decided to move forward without really committing to full-on contra dancing. We just initially said we were going to have bands come and play, and people could sit and listen to it, or people could come and bring their pod to dance with, which people were already doing in houses on our Zoom dance.

And it turned out, after a couple of weeks of that, people were ready to dance in a contra line together. So Zoom fatigue factored in for us, for sure. Engaging our local talent was a big reason to go back to in-person events because we had only one or two bands and callers from our community that were able to perform. And we had brought in people from the region, but we really wanted to get our local callers and musicians going again and bring back dancers who didn't attend the Zoom dance. We had a fairly regular group of Bloomington people, but it wasn't everybody. There are people who just weren't going to come to the Zoom dance.

Katy German 12:04

Right? Right. And you all actually applied for support from CDSS. For a caller training session, right?

Eric Schedler 12:13

We did. So when we resumed dancing, we found that we had lost half of our callers that we had before the pandemic. So we really didn't have quite enough to keep going with a weekly event. We had three callers, I think, at the end of that. So we turned right back to CDSS and asked them. We wrote a grant, which we received, to bring in Duke and Murphy to train a new cohort of callers to keep our dance going. And it was fabulous. We trained seven new callers, and all of them are calling at our dances. A bunch of them have now called their first full evening by themselves. So that was great. And our situation with callers is healthier than it was before the pandemic thanks to the training and the new cohort.

Katy German 13:10

That's fantastic. Janine, how about you?

Janine Smith 13:13

So our situation is a little different in that the two organizations that typically run dances in the DC area, the Friday Night Dancers on Friday and the Folklore Society of Greater Washington on Sunday at Glen Echo Park, were still kind of very wary about starting up and they got a board of 10 people. It's really hard to have a unanimous “let's do it.” But I noticed that and another dancer who was very enthusiastic, like, why aren't we dancing?

Around Labor Day, Glen Echo Park reopened for dancing. They had a big splashy Day of Dance in the bumper car pavilion, waltzes started up twice a month, swing dances were going on, you know, every week. It started in the bumper car and kind of migrated to the ballroom, which is a much bigger venue. And another dancer here, who has a ballroom in her house, they were having English dancing once or twice a month. And all these and also a great big venue in Baltimore was having swing dancing weekly, and no one was reporting any sort of cases or transmission. And they were all vaccinated events. They were all masked events. Everyone was being very careful. So it was like, Well, okay, why don't we?

So I had conversations with the organizations existing here. They just weren't comfortable yet. So I kind of looked into it. And I thought, well, gosh, they're renting these at bargain-basement rates, the ballroom and the bumper car. And I amazingly found out that I could become a CDSS Affiliate, to get the required insurance. Plug for becoming an Affiliate! It's amazing; one person can be—I had no idea. [I] got the insurance that satisfies the requirements for the rental agreement. We just went from there. Was very careful about the first one, making sure it was all, you know, a lot of things to learn—how to do it. Because of the park requirements by preregistration, you could not exchange money at the door; everything there is being handled as a private event. It's like it's a wedding; you wouldn't be giving money at the door at a wedding. So it's kind of their charade to defer liability a little bit—the park—but that makes it possible for us to get all the vaccination cards at a time and saves a lot of time. So that's how that all started.

Katy German 15:47

Great. Great. Thank you. Before we move on, will each of you just kind of, in that same order, say about how many people roughly are coming to the events you're talking about? Sherry?

Sherry Nevins 15:59

Okay, me first. When I started, well, there's a factor that I didn't mention. And that was a really key part aside from the health department, which we'll get to later. But it was the facility. Just like Jeanine found the bumper car pavilion was a safe place to be, and Eric was able to have dances outdoors in a park pavilion. The hall that we use—which is in the pictures there—has windows on both sides of the room that can open and big doors up to the lobby. And it's big. It's a 300-person-capacity hall. And the hall management, I had met with them, met with the hall manager back in June. I started talking with health department people in May, I believe, and they were willing to give us a very significant discount on the rent. He helped us get going because they wanted us to create. So that was a big factor.

The first dance, one of the hardest things about starting up was not knowing whether we would get 20 people or 200 people. And that was: How do you plan? And so we planned our first dance for the end of July. And I was thinking, Oh, I'd be perfectly comfortable with 50 people. Well, we got 50, 60, 70, 80, and the registrations kept coming in. I cut it off at 100 and started a waitlist. And then delta started, and I was quite nervous about 100, even though that would have been a third of the hall capacity.

But then delta showed up, and cancellations started happening, and no-shows. There are people who just didn't show up. We wound up with 72 people in the hall, including musicians, caller, sound tech, everybody, volunteers. And it felt fine. It was not crowded at all. There's lots of space, there's lots of air. But delta kept climbing, so we cancelled reps. We were going to do one a month. We canceled August, and by the end of September, I decided to come back with alternating dances and concerts.

Katy German 18:19

Hang on. I think you're getting to the adjustments part. So I want to save that bit for later, if you don't mind, Sherry, okay. Okay, great. Average 60 dancers now. Perfect, perfect. And the images you see on our screen right now, those are images from Seattle. Great. Eric, Janine, how about you? Numbers?

Eric Schedler 18:40

We have average 28 total attendees in the current calendar year, and it has come up a little bit in the past few weeks to about 34 on average.

Janine Smith 18:53

Okay, the bumper car pavilion at Glen Echo has a capacity of 350. So to make it more airy and more comfortable and more space, we capped it at 175. And the first two dances—we started in November, which was the sweet spot. It was after delta and before the mighty omicron came up. And so people were really hot to trot. We sold out. We capped it at 175 and sold out two weeks ahead of time. And same with December. It was sold out a week ahead of time. And so we've had 175 each of those two dances, and then we postponed January's because of omicron. And then the two that we've had in February, we had about 130-140 each time.

Katy German 19:41

Great. Okay, thank you. So some variance in size here. Let's move on to the next slide. Next question. Okay, what indicators or data are you following to inform your decision, and let's mix up the order this time. Let's start with Eric, and then Janine, and then Sherry.

Eric Schedler 20:03

Yeah, so we definitely pay attention to and discuss as a board, a lot of times our county rating on the state website and the CDC website. And the factors, we kind of discussed the factors too, which are the percent positivity cases per 100,000 and our local hospital capacity. We ultimately never did create a threshold: If we reach x, we will cancel. And I think that's because the vaccinated people seemed pretty well protected from severe outcomes with omicron, which is when we would have potentially reached those thresholds if we had created them.

Janine Smith 20:49

Okay. Again, looking at the county website, county data on the CDC for the percent positivity and the cases per 100,000. We are so lucky to have a resident epidemiologist, Michal Warshaw, who actually works for the Arlington County Health Department contact tracing department. And, so, honestly, I think I spoke with her every day, just about “What about this? What about that?” Vaccination rates are very high here, quite high in this county. And then also, I work at a hospital that is associated with Hopkins. So I can actually go online and log into the system and see how many people are in the two local hospitals that are connected with Hopkins, and how many people are in the ICU. And I followed that daily. So now there are five people with COVID at a hospital or community hospital with 281 beds. And, uh, you know, so it's really... I followed that. It was 90 in January, which is like, hm, might be a good time to postpone that dance, you know. So that little insider info really didn't hurt.

Katy German 22:06

That's great. Thanks. I am seeing the questions coming in to me directed at chat. I’ll try to keep up with them. And some of those are going to be answered in the Q&A portion. Just letting you folks know, we're gonna keep this train rolling. Thank you. Let's move on to the next slide. Oh, right. So this is where we're getting into the meat of what adjustments did you make to your normal procedures? I know it's a little bit of a small font, but we tried to consolidate our conversations into this table. And Janine? Well, no, you get the next slide, so we're gonna save you for last. Sherry, will you kick it off? And kind of just do a quick overview of what you all did?

Sherry Nevins 22:51

Sure. Well, at the very beginning, I did an online registration form rather than a survey that had a few questions on it, like, Would you only dance if we kept attendance? Would you only dance if everyone is vaccinated? And after a while, I didn't need those questions anymore. But that's it. And now we don't. And then after a couple months, we didn't do preregistrations anymore.

I also had a printed registration form at the door, which is what we still have. Once we did not collect people's vaccination documents, but once we checked their documents physically, had a spreadsheet of everyone who had preregistered. And then we added names to that as people came without preregistering. We checked the column on the spreadsheet that we have verified their vaccinations, so they’d only have to show the card once. I didn't want there to be any problem with people giving away their documents.

And that has been working very, very well. It's a little more paperwork because I have to update that verified document every week. But that’s worth it. So we've got the checking—checking vaccination status—providing masks. We started providing KN-95 masks when omicron really started kicking in. And all the windows and doors stay open even when it's below freezing. People warm up when they dance, and we bring a little heater for the band on stage if they need it, but they usually, they don't often want it.

We started wondering if people would be weird about touching each other, and so I started with name tags with a little colored sticker they could put on with a green sticker for full-on swing and different colors for two-hand swing or for no-hand swing. Everybody was taking the full-on swing green stickers so I didn't keep doing that after a while. People were fine with the touching and it really is airy. The aerosols were the bigger concern. We don't provide any food other than some individually wrapped chocolates that are spread out on a table so you don't go pulling through baskets.

Other than that, the other dance itself is shorter by half an hour from what it used to be. It used to be too long anyway because it was a weeknight, and each dance was run shorter—not as short as the Zoom dances, but not as long as the pre-pandemic in-person dances. And the only other thing that was really different is lots more communication. [Unclear…], but also talking with people.

Katy German 25:32

Great, great. Yeah, Eric. So it looks like you did a lot of the same things. But you did a few things differently.

Eric Schedler 25:38

Yeah, so we started again, we started in June last year. And we found a public park with a bandstand, that [had] a big enough plywood stage that the dancers could be on the plywood stage. Well, for our small group, and for the size that it's been. We had never had an outdoor dance, except in the group's distant past history, they used to take park shelters. And we also eased our dancers into contact, I think that is kind of an important thing. And maybe even now, that's still true, even though we are accustomed to more contact than we were last year.

But we held our first dance, where people had to bring a pod to dance with. And having the community meeting ahead of time also was really good for people to be able to hear where other…dancers were at and talk about their concerns openly. And then we also had different colored wristbands for the first couple of months, I think, so people who didn't want to do a closed swing would wear a different color wristband.

Yeah, let's see, I don't want to say everything that's just in this table. But oh, we decided to, when we restarted in-person events, to only have members be allowed. Now we do allow people to join at the door, so in that sense, it's still a public event. But the membership is a sort of our way of making sure that their vaccination status has been checked, we have their contact information, they’re on a permanent printed list so we can mark who came to which week’s dance. And then we can contact people if there's any outbreak, or any positive test.

That might be all that I need to say. We moved indoors in November. So we were outside for a bunch of [sound cuts out]. Masks are required. No food, we asked people to even step out of the gym to take a drink from their water bottle or use a water fountain if it's running. And our dance is also shorter.

Katy German 28:15

Connection there back.

Janine Smith 28:17

You're back. Good.

Katy German 28:19

Eric, I'm sure...

Janine Smith 28:26

I think Katy's frozen, so I will just charge ahead.

Katy German 28:29

Go ahead.

Janine Smith 28:30

Okay. So basically, we are in the bumper car pavilion. It's an open air pavilion; we're so lucky to have this resource. Most of the plastic curtains roll up, so there can actually be lots of airflow. But there are radiant heaters in the ceiling that really keep everybody toasty warm. We limited the capacity to half.

We decided to just do proof of vaccination only, no provision for testing out. I just thought that was way too complicated. That leaves it up to the door person, and what kind of test is it, and just too much back and forth. It's just… there's a chance that that person may still be infected. So depending on what they did, right before they got there or two days before. So we just did that.

We asked people to email their vax cards ahead of time. Preregistration was because of the park requirements; phone numbers were collected. We required masks at all times. And we upgraded the masking as omicron came in and we decided no gaiters. No, you know, that kind of thing. No, no masks made of a sock, which was kind of at the beginning of the pandemic. You can make a mask out of a T-shirt. Okay, it doesn't work. But people would show up in these crazy chemical things that look like they were about to clean up a Superfund site. And we're like, you know what, don't wear those because they make other dancers uncomfortable. So you have to spell everything out.

I think the biggest thing, I feel like the most important thing, was the pre-dance letter to all registrants because we knew who was coming. Yes, that thing. Yes. Eric, that thing. Okay. Um, yeah, that scares people, when they’re coming at you to balance and swing. A lot of people came up afterwards and said, “Could you do something about that?”

So every dance, we learned something, but the letter that we sent basically specified, when you get there, here's how you behave. “You put your mask on; you go up to the door volunteer; you check your name off; when you're inside the pavilion, you do not remove your mask; you can sip some water through a straw or underneath,” but the expectations. So you're setting the expected safety behavior. “If you're approaching the band, please make sure your mask is on,” that kind of thing. And then what counts as a mask, what doesn't count as a mask. Also, if you have these symptoms, and we just listed every single one in order, please don't come, wait till next time, or if you're awaiting results of a COVID test, don't come.

So I feel like that letter, that contact, was the most important thing. Before each dance, we would have a mask-wearing demo. The caller would go "Okay, here's a mask, you must put this [on] and mold it to your nose." Because even though we're two years into this, people still don't get it sometimes. And then I would empower the dancers to self-correct. Say, if you see someone with a droopy drawer and their mask is down here, it's okay to say, “I would feel more comfortable if you would pull your mask up, and then we'll have fun dancing,” and just kind of explain that.

Also really stress that, if there were any symptoms, once they got home, get a PCR test, contact us at the same email address. And then, that's the pep talk. It's like, “Are you with me?” “Yes, we're gonna have a great night!” So really kind of get everybody on board. We're doing this safely. So we can keep doing it. We all want to take care of each other and pretty much empower everyone to kind of not really police it, but police it.

Katy German 32:31

That's great. I'm kind of back. But I don't know how long I'll be back.

Janine Smith 32:34

Okay. And that was a picture of someone there. Melissa Chatham, a caller, demonstrating the mask, the mask demo.

Katy German 32:43

Wonderful. I am not sure where we are. I think we're ready for the next slide. Yes. Fantastic. Next slide. So Janine, tell us what we're looking at here.

Janine Smith 32:57

That is the bumper car pavilion at Glen Echo Park. And you can see that it's…you might have to really look in there. But the red lights on the floor there are the reflection of the radiant heaters and beautiful twinkle lights. And Jamie Platt is over there getting the sound set up. He and I are now offering these dances in coordination. He did the second dance, and then we joined forces to kind of do these. Because it takes a lot of work between the registration, the vaccination cards, the email, all that stuff, it really is more than one person can handle.

But you can see that those panels, two of those panels, are open there. And some of those curtains don't quite work. They're very fragile. They're kind of rigged like a ship where you kind of have to pull up block and tackle. But that is the bumper car pavilion with some of the curtains open. So we would try and open pretty much all the ones that are functional. That's great for airflow.

Katy German 33:58

It sounds like each of you really were relying on open airflow, outdoor air. But did any of you try any filtration systems or deal with internal systems in filtration?

Janine Smith 34:18

We actually tried to have—oh, sorry—we tried to have fans at the first dance blowing air out, but they were not really functional. The fans were broken. They were just sitting there not, you know—we couldn't get them to work.

Sherry Nevins 34:34

Now I can't because there's lots of lots of air in that hall. There is the Northwest Dance Network that puts on swing and waltz dance events. They have a hall where there are no outdoor windows to open. The hall itself had updated their HVAC system. So I did go to a few of those events. And they are also doing the same thing: taking vaccinations and masks and all of that. And they have had a good track record as well.

Katy German 35:05

That's great. All right. But we'll keep moving along. I want to assure everybody, if I drop off again, you're in good hands. I really don't do much of anything around here. All right, next slide. So here's your next question. What post-event participant follow-up are you doing? Or do you do? Let's start off with Sherry. And then to Janine, then, Eric.

Sherry Nevins 35:30

Yes. Since we keep track of attendance at each dance when we check people in, then we have their email addresses from the registration form, which I can make available to everybody. I don't think there's a slide for that. So about three days after each dance, I sent an email to everyone who was at that dance, but blind copy just in case that people don't want their their email addresses splattered all over, thanking them for coming, blah, blah, blah, and asking them to, if they have any symptoms at all—I list the symptoms—to please get tested and to let me know whether it's positive or negative. And just also let me know what the symptoms were, when they started, how severe, that kind of stuff. Some people who get tested regularly for work even without symptoms have been really good about just letting me know, "Hey, I'm negative."

Katy German 36:30

Right?

Sherry Nevins 36:31

And so far, we've had… Do you want me to? Are we talking just yet about what do you do if there's a positive?

Katy German 36:41

No, not yet. Not yet.

Sherry Nevins 36:43

Not yet. Okay.

Katy German 36:45

This is just what is the new routine after the events? What are the things you do? Yeah. So Sherry, you mentioned that you have a form that you would share. I can see everyone tonight has some templates and communications and surveys, things that they've used, that they're willing to share. So when we upload these slides, by the end of the week, on our website, we will also share those very generously shared items.

Sherry Nevins 37:15

Okay, if I can backtrack a bit, I didn't get a chance. You didn't have me talk when we're talking about what data and indicators we use. It's pretty much the same thing. King County Public Health has a very good, detailed website that's been cited in the New York Times, among other things. And they've been tracking data very thoroughly. So I rely heavily on that. And May of last year I had started having periodic conversations with someone at the health department and basically ran through everything I was thinking of doing and asked for their evaluation of that. And I've got nothing but encouragement and validation for what we're doing. The other thing is that they started putting on their website, a relative risk information, comparing the risks of people who were vaccinated against unvaccinated and the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations and the number of deaths for each of those. And that has really been important guiding me because even if caseloads are rising really high in the general population, which is mostly the unvaccinated people, we are all vaccinated at this dance. So I was putting more attention into what's happening, relatively, for vaccinated people. Right? Not that I was ignoring all the other information, but I was looking at it in that context.

Katy German 38:45

Absolutely. And Sherry, I believe you also routinely share with everybody who's at the dance. Whether people are positive or not.

Sherry Nevins 38:55

Yes, the website for the dance, which is at seattledance.org, has a little rundown of every week, “no COVID reported” or whatever. Whatever came back to me I report without anybody's names. I don't want to identify anybody just to make sure people want to give that information to us. It's great. Anybody can look at it.

Katy German 39:20

Thank you for expanding on that., Sherry. I'm sorry I skipped you. Okay. Yeah, so Janine, how about you?

Janine Smith 39:30

Oh, again, it's more communication after the dance. During the dance saying, if you have symptoms, get a PCR [and] let us know right away. The first dance, I mean, I was psycho about it. I sent an email to all the registrants the first day: Is everybody okay? The first three days after: How's everyone doing? A week after: This is your final call, has anyone gotten sick? and also sent a survey with about 20 questions. Just asking people, Did you feel safe? Would you do this again, if we went inside to the ballroom? Do you have any suggestions? Just all kinds of different aspects.

And the results were fascinating. They were amazing. But people were mostly expressing just joy and saying, “I cried all the way home, it was so wonderful,” and just so enthusiastic, and just very positive results. But so now, I'm not doing three different emails, but maybe one kind of summary, and then introducing the next dance and saying, we decided not to allow registration until one dance was over because we kind of want to see, what if there's any fallout, and then open it up to the next dance. So contact, constant contact. Yeah.

Katy German 41:00

And then just one of the images on the side here is the Take Hands Four, Please. That is actually the survey that you mentioned. So we're going to get a clearer version of that to share with everybody.

Janine Smith 41:14

Great, yeah, Joel Bluestein devised that and it was brilliant.

Katy German 41:18

So how about you, Eric?

Eric Schedler 41:23

Yeah. So for our Bloomington dance, we don't send out an email every week to people who came, but we did make all our members agree to the policy of informing the dance board immediately of any positive tests if they had attended an event [within] 14 days of their tests. I know that's kind of a bigger window than we really need, but we thought the five was maybe a little sketchy, that we sometimes hear about now. So anyway, yeah, we just asked people to report if they've had a positive test and definitely to get tested if they are not feeling well. And I guess I can add that, you know, our group is small, our attendance is in the high 20s, low 30s. And everyone who comes knows everybody else, We're all we're kind of all friends like everyone is taking care of everyone else. So there's a good level of trust there that people are gonna check themselves out if they're not feeling well.

Katy German 42:30

Okay, so here's the question that I'm getting a lot in the chat. I'm sure the other CDSS staff are. Next slide, please. Have any participants reported post-event positive results? And if so, what did you do? And it would be helpful if you could give us a reminder of how many dances you run, this is how many people [if] this has happened. Just so we stay a little bit grounded in numbers as much as we can. Oh, sorry. Janine, why don't you go first?

Janine Smith 43:09

Okay, so we've had four, we've had four dances with, like I said, 175, twice, and then about 130-140, twice in February. And I was feeling very proud. But then we had a positive test, on the last dance, which was the 24th, last Thursday. And it all went…, thanks to Michal Warshaw, it was brilliant. I don't know why we didn't have a letter ready to go ahead of time, but she drafted one brilliantly, in a couple of hours. And as we got a report on Saturday morning that someone had some symptoms. They went and got a rapid test, a rapid antigen test and a PCR. The rapid antigen was positive; they were waiting on the PCR test. So we sent this letter out to all the registered participants. Then when we found out the PCR was positive, we sent out a follow-up letter, telling them exactly what to do. And that can be something that a template will be available to any group. And it's really just, “here's what you should do”: wear a mask for 10 days, if you have symptoms... It really told everything. So I would say [my] advice is [to] have a letter ready to go. So you aren't going “oh, no!” when it does happen, because it probably will.

Katy German 44:36

So you're gonna share that one with us, right? Yes. Great. We can have your letter ready to go.

Janine Smith 44:43

Definitely.

Katy German 44:45

Thank you. Sherry, how about you? Any reports?

Sherry Nevins 44:48

Well, we've had 21 in-hall events so far. Three of them were concerts and the rest were all dances. Attendance has been… the smallest was 34 and that was one of the concerts. And then the biggest was 92 people. Average, about 60. We had three, three separate times, someone had reported that they had tested positive. Just looking at the timing of when their symptoms started, it was not likely that they had been either contagious or had caught it at the dance. I reported it anyway on the website and let people know. But nobody else after each of those instances, nobody else reported having any positive test.

Then early in February, February 10, I think, one dancer started feeling symptoms on the way home from the dance. Was fine at the dance. Immediately, like got tested the next day, and let me know it was positive. I sent out an email alert to all the people who were there at the dance with the reminders that we send in the follow-up, but just to let them know, and I didn't do as much. I think there's enough information out publicly about what to do if you've been exposed. So I didn't really run through all of that, but asked them to be careful and lay low, to be cautious because that one person could not have caught it at the dance but was definitely contagious. Getting symptoms on the way home, that was probably at peak contagiousness, and that person was dancing the entire time.

So you know, contra dance, it means you’re dancing with everybody. That person did his own work-specific contact tracing for people he knew he partnered with, and nobody else got a positive case. One other person had some mild symptoms and took a rapid test and a PCR test and was negative. Several people, at least a dozen of us, waited a few days. I did recommend that people wait a few days before testing because if they were just exposed, they might not have built up enough virus level to show up on the test. So a number of us tested ourselves, a number of us twice, and all were negative. So even though we had a known peak exposure, we'll of course mask, everybody was very fully masked there. Nobody else got it, even the person who rode in the car with the one who was showing symptoms did not.

Katy German 47:35

Great. Great. Thank you. Eric, how about you?

Eric Schedler 47:40

Um, we have had one dancer tested positive after a dance. And again, it was five days after the dance that they attended. So we didn't think it was terribly likely they were contagious at the dance. They could have caught it at the dance. So we did contact everyone who attended that event, since we have our list of who came and saw everyone to report if they'd had either symptoms or positive tests, and we didn't have anybody else who had anything. So we were not able to draw any conclusions about it being connected to the dance. There have been a bunch of dancers who got omicron. But we were all being so careful. I think in most cases, people knew that they had a family member in the house who had COVID, or they knew they'd been exposed somewhere. So none of those people attended a dance like within a week of when they got sick. They sat it out, knowing that they had a chance of catching it. So again, people taking a very considerate approach.

Katy German 49:00

Yeah. Thank you. Okay, let's move on to our next slide. Then we're getting close to the Q&A portion, and boy, do we have a lot of questions coming in! Um, last question. This can be quick. Is there another event on your horizon? Are you going to keep going? And if you are, are you going to do anything different that you haven't been doing? Eric, let's start with you. Then Janine, then Sherry.

Eric Schedler 49:31

Yeah, so we have a weekly dance. And in the past, pre-pandemic, we had a quarterly Saturday dance, which isn't always more well attended than our weekly dance anyway, but we think it would be now that most of the nearby communities are still not dancing. So we are considering having that quarterly event at the end of April. And of course, we'll be keeping an eye on COVID spread continuing to go down before going ahead with that. And we also have our group's 50th anniversary coming up. Actually, this whole year is our 50th anniversary. So we're looking at doing an event sometime in summer or fall, and bringing back people from all the different decades of Bloomington dance history.

Katy German 50:19

That's wonderful. Cool.

Janine Smith 50:22

So, we are planning two more dances in March. Jamie—Jamie Platt—and Dancing Planet and myself and a square dance, all square dance, at the Glen Echo bumper car pavilion, this weekend on Saturday night. We're also planning the Dare to be Square weekend in May. Thank you, CDSS insurance! And it's unclear really when the other organizations are gonna start up. I know there's conversations about they had written up metrics, they're kind of getting together to discuss those. I know there's a lot of communication between the Friday Night Dancers and Folklore Society.

So we'll just kind of keep plugging away until something definite happens because I'd really like to just dance, you know, and call and not necessarily always sit in front of a screen and write emails to the dancers. Although it's been really our pleasure to do that. I think part of what we need to do is to still educate the community that, you know, gee, we've dropped our mask mandate, why are you all still requiring masks? And it's just because you know, even being outside and you know, requiring good quality masks and all that stuff, vaccinated, boosted. If someone still comes to the dance who is infectious, you have to protect yourself. You still have to wear a mask. So a part of it is still education.

Eric Schedler 51:55

I don't even think you need a reason at your square dance. "Just because!"

Janine Smith 52:00

Yeah, well, people ask. I mean that, the county. Haha, "just because" I get that. Okay. County dropped the mask mandate Monday, and we had our dance Thursday. So people were asking, "Why are we?" So, yes.

Katy German 52:15

All right. Sherry, how about you?

Sherry Nevins 52:18

Yeah, we are going to keep the masks and the vaccination proof. Like, it's a little interesting. Washington state is dropping the mandate but allowing localities to keep it, and King County is keeping it to see what happens with COVID, really. So that makes it easier. Also, I think the contra dancers—we don't get pushback against this. People are very, very glad. So many people have expressed gratitude that we take all the steps to try to… You know, we can never guarantee safety, just like we can never guarantee that people won't get a cold or a stomach ache or something after going to a dance pre-pandemic. But we can do everything that we can to prevent transmission, as Katy said, and people are very supportive of that.

And I totally intend to keep the masks if there's anything that is likely to transmit aerosols, it’s contra dancing. Although they think about it for every swing, which is the closest thing we do with each other. You're only swinging for a matter of seconds, and then you're gone. But still, and we're all human fans during the air around. But still, we'll keep the masks going. There was something else I was going to say but I forgot.

Katy German 53:47

Well, great. I think you know what you've talked about today, but [what] you all have shared is an enormous amount of extra work to put these on. And I know that you've said you've had team support, you've had help. So to you and all your teams, I think one question a lot of folks have in mind or had in mind—I certainly had this question in mind going into our last camp season—Is it worth all that effort? You know, like, is it possible? Am I gonna wish we hadn't?

Sherry Nevins 54:18

Yes, yes, yes. Yes. Yes. You've gotten really excited by that question. It is so worth it. It is just so incredibly worth it. It would be worth 10 times the amount of work for me. The amount of joy that comes out of people when they're able to dance after two years. And it's just amazing.

Janine Smith 54:39

Yeah, agree. Yeah.

Katy German 54:44

All right. Well, we are just a smidge over where I wanted us to be at this point. But I think we did really good, all things considered. We have so many questions coming in, [which] Sarah Pilzer has been collecting. She's been trying to consolidate them. So a lot of folks are asking the same questions, we'll do our best to get to them all. If we don't have time to get to them all, we'll keep…a list. And I'll reach out to the guests tonight. And we'll post answers to those questions with the other materials. So I'm going to pass the baton back to you, Sarah, and take it away.

Sarah Pilzer 55:28

Great, thanks, Katy. Yes, there are many questions coming in, and some that came in even before via email. So we're going to start with those. And there was actually multiple of the same question, which is, Have you thought about or had to deal with people trying to use a fake vaccination card? And what are your thoughts on that? [Pause] Looks like nobody, that hasn't come up for anybody. Any thoughts about [that]? Are you worried about that happening?

Janine Smith 55:57

Because I've actually been giving vaccinations throughout the pandemic, through my hospital, that someone will run a vaccination card by me and go, does this look legitimate? And I can tell. I mean, you know, that, like, you can tell where, what CVS it was, where it was located. Because there are various things. There are stickers, there are, you know, writing, but there's a code. And I guess if somebody really went to the trouble of figuring out what the code for the CVS in Fairfax, Virginia, is, you know… but I don't think we've really come across any that we knowingly like really looked sketchy.

Sherry Nevins 56:45

You know, we check their IDs as well, when they show us the card.

Janine Smith 56:51

Right. Yeah.

Sarah Pilzer 56:54

Thanks. Um, another. Speaking to the numbers at your dances, can you talk a little bit about how the numbers you're seeing now compare to the numbers you were having before? And if they've changed at all, are they up? Or are they down? Apologize if we've we would have had already, but…

Sherry Nevins 57:17

It's turning out to be not all that different. Some of the dances have been a lot smaller than our usual from before. A number of them have been pretty much in the same ballpark. Not...yeah.

Sarah Pilzer 57:36

Follow-up to that. No, sorry. Go ahead, Eric.

Eric Schedler 57:38

I think ours is a little bit smaller than it was. But it isn't that different. And it's starting, it's growing back now. I think we had dips with omicron, and we had some difficulty getting people to our outdoor location because it was actually outside of Bloomington, so it required transportation. And the membership kind of does limit somewhat, although really, we have some great members who have been bringing, finding friends, new people to bring in who are willing to join just to come to a dance.

Janine Smith 58:13

It's great. I would say ours are a little smaller, but we limited the capacity. So it's hard to say. I think overall, there was kind of a little bit of a decline, even pre-pandemic, in attendance at Glen Echo. It kind of goes up and down. But generally, yeah, they're smaller.

Sarah Pilzer 58:37

Great, um, have you seen the average or mean age of attendees change since getting back together? Do you notice any like…are there any major demographic shifts? That'll actually cover a lot of these questions.

Sherry Nevins 58:51

Well, I can answer a little bit of that. We've had, which has been a very lovely surprise, we've had a lot of young dancers who have moved to the Seattle area within the last two years. And they've been there, people who've danced in other places, and they're delightful to have and they are in a lot of our slides there. And we're really happy to see them. It's been kind of surprising, because some of the usuals, the old regulars came back, and a lot of them haven’t, but we've got a whole influx of new people who are wonderful. So that was something we wouldn't have anticipated.

Eric Schedler 59:36

I'd say our demographics are in the same range that they have been, which is, there's people who've been dancing for up to 50 years. And there's been varying contingents of young people that ebb and flow over the years.

Sarah Pilzer 59:57

Great, um...

Janine Smith 59:58

Ours is about the same. I would say the demographics are pretty much the same at Glen Echo.

Sarah Pilzer 1:00:07

One of the things that comes up is with kids at dances, and I know none of you are running family dances specifically, but provided they're vaccinated, are kids welcome at your dance? How are you thinking about younger children, who aren't able to be vaccinated, coming to dances?

Eric Schedler 1:00:30

Kids are welcome at our dance if they're vaccinated and the parents have shown their card. And we're in a school, so I was probably the one person who brought unvaccinated kids before they were eligible. And I sent them upstairs into a hallway to hang out while we were performing.

Sherry Nevins 1:00:54

Since our dances are on a Thursday night—which is, for better or worse, a school night—so we really don't get people bringing kids. In the registration form and in the promotion for the dance, we stated very, very clearly that anyone who is at higher risk or in regular contact with anyone at higher risk, including unvaccinated housemates, or young children who were unable to be vaccinated yet, should not attend. We did have a couple of older kids who were fully vaccinated who came with, and we were very happy to have them, but it doesn't happen very often at our dance. I would love to see more kids, if they're vaccinated. And it just hasn't been an issue for us. But it would be fine to have kids as long as they're vaccinated.

Janine Smith 1:01:42

What Sherry says.

Sarah Pilzer 1:01:46

Great. Have you found that masked dancers tire faster? Or is there a noticeable change in their stamina? And there's a follow up to that as well. But start with that.

Janine Smith 1:02:00

I don't think it has anything to do with the mask. It has to do with the fact that you have not danced for two years. You may think it's the mask. It's not the mask. It's the COVID-19 pounds that you gained. So that's just all I'll say,

Sherry Nevins 1:02:15

Yeah, I second that. Because when we first started up, people were just oh my gosh, I'm so out of shape. But week after week, since we've been doing it every week, we don't get that as much and people are able to dance longer, and they're not not having to leave as early and yeah, it's exactly what Janine said.

Janine Smith 1:02:37

You can get used to wearing a mask for eight hours, I have to do it at work. It's, you know, a lot of people do have to wear it at work for many hours and you just get used to it.

Sherry Nevins 1:02:47

Fortunately, I don't have to. But I found that once those endorphins kick in, you don't think about a mask. You're just too happy.

Eric Schedler 1:02:56

We had some people who had difficulty dancing in masks in July in the Indiana heat. But I think that was mostly heat-related. It hasn't been a problem since it's gotten cold. Yeah.

Sarah Pilzer 1:03:13

Yeah. The follow-up was how rusty are the dancers in terms of skill-building and even endurance. So I think you've addressed that as well, though.

Sherry Nevins 1:03:23

I think they think they're rustier than they really are. It comes back.

Sarah Pilzer 1:03:29

Great. Um, okay. Turning towards bands and callers Are woodwind and or brass instruments… instrumentation, uh...musicians allowed to play without masks at your dances?

Sherry Nevins 1:03:46

That's a good question. Well, we haven't had any woodwind or brass players asked to play and they're pretty much self-selecting out at this point. For us, we've had… masks are required when the musicians are off stage and optional when they're on stage, because it's got a big, high stage that's apart from the dance floor. It's separated from the dance floor. And I'd say most of them are choosing to keep their mask on. A few of them have chosen not to, but once they leave the stage, they have to have their mask on. And oh, I'll add a little bit. I don't know if anybody has asked what about callers calling with a mask. “You can’t understand them.” Well, you actually can if you've got a really good sound tech, because they know how to boost the high frequencies and it comes through loud and clear. To the caller themselves, they sound muffled, but not out on the floor.

Eric Schedler 1:04:43

I think also the kind of masks the caller wears can make a difference. So those KN-95s that are not touching the face are actually better than people trying to wear cloth masks that they're starting to suck on.

Janine Smith 1:04:57

Right? And I kind of make it a conversation between the band members and the callers if they kind of agree that the caller doesn't have to wear the mask to call, and the band is okay with that, they're like isolated in a little bandshell kind of thing. Also, you can get masks for flute players, it's a little thing that goes out, you know, you can get, actually, masks for wind instruments, they’re specialty things, but you can actually get a mask that goes over your mouth like that at the end of the flute. So there are accommodations you can make.

Eric Schedler 1:05:33

The woodwinds haven't come up; none of our regular local performers play them. So that would definitely be a board discussion, because we do require the performers to stay masked.

Sarah Pilzer 1:05:47

Given that you're maybe having lower attendance at your dances, have you reduced or changed the way that you're paying your bands and callers? If you have a guarantee, for example.

Janine Smith 1:06:02

Actually, we're paying the bands and callers much more than they would have normally made. Because the hall typically would charge a percentage of the door 35%, you know, 40% of the door. Now it's a flat fee. So we're actually…they're getting paid more than you know, they actually can even believe so it's really a nice opportunity to kind of make up for some of the, you know, dry times during the pandemic.

Sherry Nevins 1:06:35

Well, we were lucky to have a couple of individuals make some very generous donations to help us get going. And so that's helped [us] be able to pay musicians. Nope, no musicians are paid what they're worth, ever. But, I think it has helped.

Eric Schedler 1:06:56

We moved to donations only during the online dances, just how most of those were run. And people did better on those than they had been doing for our weekly local dance before. And we kept that system through the whole period of time that we were dancing outside because we were also not paying rent for the shelter. We only once got preempted by somebody. But then when we moved back to our regular venue in November, we went back to paying a flat rate. And you have a little bit lower attendance, but I think we're taking in about the same amount of money that we used to take in per dance because we kept the pay at the door for the attendees whatever you want to pay. Whereas we used to charge $4 for members and $5 for non-members, and we just have a jar, and when you tell everybody you know, this is how we're paying. And I think it's averaging out slightly better per person who comes than what we used to charge.

Sherry Nevins 1:08:13

Wow, the cost of living must be a lot lower in Bloomington.

Eric Schedler 1:08:16

So we have…it's too much to go into. But we subsidize our week. We lose money on a weekly basis and subsidize with an annual event, which we haven't had in two years. So that's something we're all watching.

Sarah Pilzer 1:08:32

There are several questions all along the lines of doing preregistration. Can you talk a little bit about the systems that you're using to do that? Are they spreadsheets, some sort of registration system? How are you taking payments online, if you are? Just a little bit of nitty gritty? What's the backend look like?

Janine Smith 1:08:55

We looked at when Joel set it up, Joel Bluestein, set up the first thing and now Jamie and Betsy are taking care of it. We went with Eventbrite because it was just very easy. You just plug everything in. And there's a small fee that the user pays, like $1, something up to $2 for the professional Eventbrite system. And it ends up to be a spreadsheet, and you can update that. It collects all the information for you. And…another person took care of the vaccination cards, because it was a lot of work to do. And we just added that as a column on the spreadsheet from Eventbrite. So it's all done through Eventbrite. The money flows into your bank account. And then we had whoever's getting the money to pay, write a check for the band and caller.

Sherry Nevins 1:09:59

I guess it's my turn. When it first started, I had never done anything like this before. But I used a Google Doc and put together a registration form. The most important thing that I wanted to include on that is health guidelines, which spells out a lot of things. I'll make that document available. And it collects the email, the name and email address, and has people initial that they've read the health guidelines, and they agree to all the stipulations. And the Google Spreadsheet wasn't comfortable for me to use. I was used to using Excel spreadsheets, so I would just transfer the information to Excel spreadsheet. And I updated with that. So I just came up with a format of spreadsheet that I use.

And then after a few months, I didn't bother with the preregistrations anymore, because we had a pool of people who were coming back. So I could relax about whether we were going to get 20 or 200 people because it was organically ending up at the right amount for what we were wanting to do. So preregistration isn't happening anymore. We're not doing electronic payments; it's cash at the door. We don't collect the vaccination documents ahead of time. It’s just show it at the door, we mark the checkbox, and that's it. So that makes it a little more straightforward. There was an English dance that started up in Seattle before we did, so I took some of the procedures from what they were doing. And I was glad I did because that really worked well for us.

Eric Schedler 1:11:38

We don't do registrations because our dances are for members.

Sarah Pilzer 1:11:45

Do you have a system that you use to track membership?

1:11:50

Yes, we have some kind of database that the Membership Coordinator handles. I'm very thankful that we have a full board of volunteers, and I don't see it. And I don't know how it works. But the Membership Coordinator does have all that stuff.

Sarah Pilzer 1:12:05

Great. Here's one that came up a couple times. Are any of you requiring folks to sign a waiver to attend your dance?

Sherry Nevins 1:12:20

Well, I already answered that. The registration form that I had everybody initial at the end that's in place of a waiver. It just shows that they have understood the terms and they agreed to them.

Eric Schedler 1:12:34

We did include a COVID liability waiver as part of renewing your membership for 2022. So we didn't actually have anything in the 2021 dances, but we finally did include that as something people have to agree to when they renew.

Janine Smith 1:12:53

No waiver. I just thought it was enough. And people can sue [for] all kinds of things without a waiver. So if there is a waiver, even so.

Sherry Nevins 1:13:09

Yeah, a lot of it comes down to relationships with your dancers. They have to trust us. And to some extent, we have to trust them. We can't go policing what they do when they're not at the dance. We can require them to be vaccinated, we can require them to wear masks and wear them properly. But we don't know if they're going to bars unmasked—well, now they can't be unmasked, but generally. You know that certain type of trust has to go both ways and dancers respond to that. They respect it I think.

Sarah Pilzer 1:13:47

Okay, so speaking of mask requirements, currently, a lot of you know, that's being controlled by regulations in your areas. But do you have any thoughts about when you would feel comfortable dropping that requirement? Like what sort of criteria beyond like, if it was dropped in your region? When would you drop it for your dance?

Janine Smith 1:14:16

Not for the foreseeable future here.

Eric Schedler 1:14:18

So the last day for masks here in Indiana is Thursday. At least that's the last day that any county can require masking. Ours has been the only county requiring masking for like the last six months or something, but we are not ready to have that discussion as a board when we would drop the masks. We aren't ready to think about it.

Sherry Nevins1:14:44

Yeah, when we first had our dancing at the end of July, at that dance masking was optional. This is before delta. And ever since, it's been required, and the local regulations here is that it's considered a private event if anybody can't walk in off the street unvaccinated and go to the dance. So that makes it a private event. And for private events, you're allowed to set whatever requirements you want. So I think it would be way too chancy to not wear masks at this point. And I think we’ll just have to see if the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations and deaths all go way down rock bottom and stay there. Then we can go back to optional masks, maybe, but it's the stay there, I don’t want to be clobbered by the next variant that rears its ugly head.

Janine Smith 1:15:43

Right and true. And I actually keep going back to one of the web chats that you all presented with Kimby, saying, you know, after the dance is over, can you honestly think you have done everything possible to make this the safest possible event? And I think wearing masks is part of that. And I joke that WWFD? What would Fauci do? He would want us to wear masks when we're dancing right now. So yeah.

Sarah Pilzer 1:16:14

Eric, you mentioned early on, you were even asking folks if they wanted to take a sip of water to step out of the hall. What are other folks' policies on brief demasking for various things, taking a breather or taking some water? How do you deal with that?

Sherry Nevins 1:16:33

Well, I haven't seen anybody abusing that. If they need to drink water, they'll do it very subtly, or they'll walk into the lobby or somewhere. I don't see anybody sitting there without a mask. Sometimes people come early and they bring their takeout food. And there's a separate second lobby downstairs that's very spacious and comfortable. And I just asked them to go take their picnic downstairs. And that's handy. The question about people's mask wearing: We don't do quite as much education about proper math mask wearing as Janine does. But at first, there were a couple of times I saw somebody with the mask low and immediately said, “Pull up your mask.” And they said, “Oh, yeah.” They didn't even realize it. And then this hasn't been a problem after the first couple of times.

Eric Schedler 1:17:24

I'll just piggyback on that last little thought. We did include information that we give to all of our callers about how to talk to dancers to help them talk to each other about masks. So encouraging and sort of setting a norm that it's okay to ask someone to pull up their mask. And please do ask someone to adjust their mask if it's not on properly. That kind of thing. Yes.

Janine Smith 1:17:54

Yeah, setting the expectations of the culture that we've created of safety is really key.

Sherry Nevins 1:18:04

And thanking people for complying with that. That's important, too. A couple of times, and some people walked in with their mask upside down, KN95s. With those pieces around the chin? And I said, “Excuse me, your mask is upside down.” “Oh, is it?” Then they'd go out and fix it and come back in.

Sarah Pilzer 1:18:29

Katy, how much time do we have?

Katy German 1:18:33

We are right at the time where I hope to be transitioning. So maybe just one more question. If we can keep it [unclear]. Oh, my gosh, so many questions just popped up in my chat.

Sarah Pilzer 1:18:44

And a reminder, we are collecting all your questions, so we will try to get anything that's not answered live tonight followed up on after the web chat. All rright, I think we'll finish with this one. Eric, you mentioned that you have, in the past at least, held a big event or not a weekly dance event. If you have another weekend, like a longer dance event, how do you think your protocols would be different? Or would they change at all for larger events? And anybody who might be organizing; Sherry and Janine, if that would be something that would come up for your group, feel free to answer as well.

Eric Schedler 1:19:27

Well, it's probably a good time to dodge the question and emphasize that it's really important to nurse your weekly local dance back to health first before focusing on your big dance weekend. And so we started dancing in June, and our big event is usually at the end of August, and we said we weren't going to do it last year, even though we're already dancing even though we depend on it for sustaining our group financially. It's just really important to engage your local talent and there's a lot of rest there. Get people calling and get people playing music again and get your dancers out there again, rebuilding your community. It's really important to do that first, I think. So we are not going to have a big event like that until there's not much need for concern, I think.

Janine Smith 1:20:26

And we are having our square dance weekend in May and basically again have to be boosted, vaxxed, masks worn inside when dancing. Luckily, there are a ton of picnic tables outside the dining hall. So pray for no rain, but we can eat outside, with open air and lots of circulation. We're going to do a lot of fans drawing air out in the dance hall. There are tons of windows there. So pretty much the same things. High quality masking.

Sherry Nevins 1:21:06

I have no involvement in running any weeks or weekends. And I know some weekends and weeks camps are starting to pop up. The closest one to here that I know of I think will be the June week at Lady of the Lake camp, and their registration is opening March 1.

Eric Schedler 1:21:26

Oh right, so I'm involved in organizing two dance weeks this summer, not through Bloomington however. And both events are because you know an event like that—and a weekend could do this too—kind of ask people in addition to all the things that we've already discussed, can ask people to test themselves before coming.

Sherry Nevins 1:21:47

I should mention that the Northwest Folklife Festival is being planned for a hybrid in-person and on-site. I just scheduled the contra dance bands on that part of the festival, the overall festival planning, but they're planning to do it. And hats off to them.

Janine Smith 1:22:07

Eric, what's one of those weeks that you're planning?

Eric Schedler 1:22:12

Oh, we have two great weeks. One is in Tennessee. It's called Cumberland Dance Week. It's run by the Lloyd Shaw Foundation. And the other one is Cascade of Music & Dance. That's a CDSS week in Western Maryland. And guess who is going to be one of your callers?

Janine Smith 1:22:30

I don’t know!

Eric Schedler 1:22:33

The one with the purple lights.

Janine Smith 1:22:35

I'm bringing my twinkle lights.

Eric Schedler 1:22:37

Awesome.

Janine Smith 1:22:40

Hey, all right, shameless plug.

Katy German 1:22:42

I've got so many more of those. But I've also got an unexpected one. So don't go anywhere, everybody. I am so sorry that we didn't have time to get to everybody's questions. Like I said, we've been trying to keep them all in a consolidated list. And so things that were asked that we didn't get to touch on, I will send to our participants, and we will try to create an answer document.

I do want to urge you all, though, to trust your instincts and trust your community. Listen to your community, maybe that's what I should say. Listen to your community, listen to the people around you, listen to the medical professionals, and figure out what works best for you.

I said at the beginning—and I had a lot of people asking, so I know a lot of people didn't get the beginning—but this conversation today was really focused on people who are holding in-person events and taking measures to reduce transmission. That's not everybody. There are lots of folks out there who are not ready to come back or who are dancing without these measures. Those are different conversations. That's not what we were talking about today. So those questions are not going to be answered. I'm not going to ask the panelists to talk about anything other than their events and their experiences.

Okay, so a few quick plugs, and then we can go. Oh, so here's the fun thing I wanted to tell you all about. We've had a lot of folks over the last year ask if CDSS can be a holding place for information for groups that are doing in-person events. Yes, we want to do that. We are also overhauling our entire website. So we've gotten this started. It's not perfect. It has some bells and whistles, but we will continue working on it. Basically it's a survey for anybody holding in-person events, and it will ask you some of the questions that our panelists answered today. How big is your event? Does it involve singing, dance, music? What are the requirements? Are you asking to sign up? Are you requiring vaccination? Are you asking people to sign a waiver? A lot of the standard questions that we get.

Right now, it's going to be presented as you see on the screen. So when you see it on the website, you can click on, let's say, I could click on the Wild Rose English Country Dancers there, and I would see all of their responses. But as more and more of you all help us out and enter this information, it's going to get harder to sort through. So we do have some filtering capabilities. Up the little green section above the Wild Rose English Country Dance block is a filter, and there's a sort. It's not super shiny and perfect, but it functions right now.

And right now what we need is input. So right now, if you all help us and focus on answering the survey, I'm going to put the link in the chat. And I'm going to do it while I talk. Because that's how multi-talented I am. Let’s send it to everybody. So anybody who is starting back, whether it's a one-time event or series, we would love to hear how it's going for you.

There's also questions about well, you'll see, I'm not going to tell you what it is; I want you to go look at it. And I really want you to fill it out. A great problem to have would be that we have so much information that we outgrow this current display. We're ready for that problem. We're going to work on it. We're working on our whole website. So timing is always a fun, fun, fun, fun event.

So I also wanted to remind you that we do have a community events calendar. It's online, but it is open for any events now, and you can indicate whether your event is an online event or whether it's an in-person event, whether it's an outdoor event, etc. So you can start putting your events back on there. During COVID, for a while, it was just online events only. Next slide please.

All right, so there's some things coming up that are really exciting I want to share with everybody. There's a great film festival. It's all online. It's the Portland Roadhouse Independent Film Festival, PRIFF. Doug Plummer is involved with this festival and helping make it happen. Doug is a former CDSS board member. Doug also did this fantastic documentary on a CDSS Centennial tour stop in the Pacific Northwest in 2015. And the impact [that] a small group of very dedicated volunteers can have on their surrounding community through community dance and song. And the cool thing about this film festival is that it's really focused on community art, participatory art, not just performing art, and that makes it kind of unique. So we hope you'll check it out. Part of the proceeds will be coming to CDSS. But yeah, just really great stuff. David Millstone has a video, there's a documentary about the Carolina Chocolate Drops as well. So good stuff.

Common Time is coming up next month. There'll be a conversation with some great piano players, some of whom have been featured on our podcast, Contra Pulse. So that's what the Common Time session is next month on the 21st.

And then we actually have a brand new podcast we just launched. I'm sure you all… Oh, sorry. I just saw the question. Portland, Oregon, but yes, you're right. It doesn't really matter because it's all online.

So our brand new podcast is called From the Mic. Contra Pulse has been conversations with dance musicians who've been involved with the contra community for a while and all the changes that they've been observing and living through. Well, From the Mic is conversations with callers. I really think organizers, you're gonna get a lot of great conversations and good content and good meat in there and lots to think about, so I hope you'll check it out. Our next episode is featuring Lisa Greenleaf and that comes out I don't know exactly when. Okay. Oh, it is March, isn't it? I keep—no it's the 28th, haha. It is not next month yet. Great. Next slide.

So we also have some camps. There are a lot of organizations who are planning to do in-person camps again this summer. I hope you will check out ours. We are so excited about our season. Our season is a little bit different this year. We've got two of our camps starting in June. So Cavell in Michigan will be in June and also Ogontz Family Week will be in June. So at many of our weeks we have intensive courses. Those are opportunities for you or people in your community that you think could really benefit from this can come, have this intensive experience, and then come back to your community hopefully ready to re-energize you all.

There's so much more information I could have squeezed into this slide, but really, the thing you need to know is that the sooner you apply, the better. And for CDSS Affiliate organizations, we do a matching scholarship. So any organization that's an Affiliate with us, if you put money forward to send someone to build skills, or to have an immersive experience at camp, CDSS will match you dollar for dollar. And we would love for you all to make the most of that. So you can email me, Katy, katy@cdss.org, and we will get you going with the right…get you connected with the right folks.

Okay, next slide, sorry, I’m powering through because we're over time. These are the general resources. I think you'll have seen this before. Grants, Resource Portal, web chats, we've got a new webpage coming. We also offer one-to one-support. So if you ever want to just have a conversation and bounce ideas off of us, we are happy to listen, to give our opinions, or to connect you with someone who could really be helpful. And that is email resources@cdss.org.

Okay, last slide, I think, Oh, well, this is just more grants. We would really love to give you money to make good things happen in your community. That's all we need to say about that.

Eric Schedler 1:31:31

We got a grant. We trained some new callers, launching them as a cohort. And having them trained here is really, really, really awesome. So the grants, I can't say enough, how important it's been to rebuilding our Bloomington community.

Katy German 1:31:45

That makes me so happy. Thank you, Eric. We want to do that for everybody. So yes, if you have an idea in mind, or if you want to hear our ideas, we'd be happy to talk about it. You can find more information at cdss.org/grants.

Okay, and maybe the next one's the last one. Yeah, so just to follow up, we will be posting this recording, all of the slides, a transcript of the recording, and a lot of extra materials that the guests are willing to share: the templates, the checklists, the surveys that they mentioned. We need a few days to get all that together and organized. So by the end of the week, take a look at the web chats, cdss.org/webchats, and you should find all that stuff there. And you're welcome to share that if you know folks that weren't able to come that want to hear it. All are welcome to use those things.

So I think that's it. Nikki, is that our last slide? Oh, yep, there we go. Okay, whoo. I've had a few requests to get rid of these pesky slides and turn on everybody's unpinned so people can see each other. So we'll give you all five minutes. Five minutes to unpin, say hi, and be social.

A snow person in a bright blue scarfNovember 1, 2021

During this Web Chat, participants brainstormed ideas for keeping their music, dance, and song groups engaged and connected through the coming months. See below for a compilation of their suggestions for organizers to try out with their communities. We’re happy to continue adding to this list, so please send your thoughts to resources@cdss.org. All ideas welcome!

In-Person Outdoor Activities

  • Walks/hikes with community members to help them stay in touch
  • Meet at the regular time for a walk in a local park; have musicians play walking tunes for a mini-parade!
  • Flash mob, anyone? Organize couple dancing (waltz, etc.) accompanied by a musician or recorded music in public parks, outdoor pavilions, etc.
  • Caroling party
  • Outdoor social picnics with a fire, keeping a safe distance and visiting with friends
  • Outdoor get-togethers every few weeks, vaccines required and masking when not eating (added distancing when eating)
  • Snow people 'sunbathing' in beach chairsAt masked outdoor events, designate an area away from everyone where people can unmask at a distance, perhaps just to listen to the music or take a break.
  • A day at the zoo
  • Dancing on covered basketball courts
  • Skiing, snow shoeing, building snow sculptures

Online Events & Resources

Recurring comment: “We appreciate the way Zoom events bridge distances.”

  • Newsletter ideas:
    • Send out monthly newsletters to stay in touch with community members, open band musicians, etc. These could include news about upcoming local events, highlighting listings in the CDSS online events calendar, Julie Vallimont's Contra Pulse podcasts, etc.
    • If there are photos/videos of your group dancing in pre-Covid times, sharing links with community members is an opportunity to relive some of those happy times together.
  • Monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly Zoom get-togethers for socials, happy hours, movie nights, etc.
  • Host monthly concerts on Zoom, with open discussion periods before and after for everyone to share
  • Sponsor lectures for deeper appreciation of our dance and song forms and history: Mt. Airy Contra Dance Speaker Series
  • Hold a dance/song/music-related bingo night, trivia event, etc.
  • Attend concerts across the country and around the world, seeing friends along the way

Dance

  • Zoom dances and making up satisfying dances to do on your own
  • Introduce your community to Morris dances, Irish dances, other solo dances
  • Try other forms of dance that can be done solo on Zoom with some practice: Balkan, Hungarian, Scandinavian, etc. Good way to maintain balance and "twirl tolerance."
  • Calendar for folkdancing on Zoom in U.S. and Canada

Singing

  • Zoom sessions for singing—ballad sessions in particular, where one singer sings one song, and then Zoom shanty sessions, where there's a leader and you sing at home. Of course, we miss the harmony singing, but now that we're able to get into pods, groups of people can be in a location on a Zoom call, and stream their harmonies and their instruments and so forth.

Note: See below for comments on in-person indoor activities.

Music

  • Long Island Traditional Music Association (NY): LITMA Contra Band leads an open Celtic jam almost daily for the duration of the epidemic

Workshops

  • Organize skill-building workshops for callers, musicians, social equity training, etc.

Note: Community Grants are available to help groups hire consultants and workshop leaders. To apply, visit our Grants page.

In-Person Indoor Activities

A toy car sits on a map, with the caption 'Are we there yet?!'Disclaimer

The following ideas were offered by Web Chat participants.

CDSS recommends that all organizers follow state and local guidelines to make decisions about when it is safe to resume in-person events in your region.

Visit our Reentry Resources page for resources and considerations.

  • There's a general notion that pod dancing (e.g. 12 friends in someone's home) is a first step toward opening up, but likely air circulation isn't great, especially in the winter.
  • English dances for 1-3 couples at home with vaccinated friends using recorded music.
  • Use pool noodles in each hand to maintain distance. Use scarves or pool noodles to allow sharing some weight. Adapt circle dances to extra spread.
  • Contra dancing on ice (YouTube video of group in Montreal)

Monday, November 1, 2021

Linda Henry 0:01

Greetings from CDSS, and welcome to our Web Chat on Weathering the Winter Together. I'm Linda Henry, Community Resources Manager. We're hosting this Web Chat especially for groups that are waiting until after the end of this year to resume your music, dance, and song events. Based on our registrations, we know that there are many of you in the same boat, because we have 220 people signed up for this Web Chat from almost 40 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and two provinces and Great Britain. We'll be hearing from Dr. Kimbi Hagen about her very valuable perspectives, both as a dance organizer and a public health professor. And we'll be using our breakout rooms a little bit differently this time to crowdsource lots of ideas from all of the Web Chat participants. We hope you will find some resources and connections that will be helpful as you are making your way through the coming months.

I'd like to thank other staff members in the wings who are helping this Web Chat happen. Nicki Perez, our Membership and Development Coordinator; Crispin Youngberg, our Office and Registrations Manager; and Sarah Pilzer, our Director of Operations. We’ll have a few very quick tech tips from Sarah.

Sarah Pilzer 1:47

Hi, everyone, just a few things to remember. We're all getting very used to Zoom by now. We are recording this Web Chat, so if you do not want to be seen at any point on the Web Chat, just keep your video off. Of course, remain muted unless you are speaking. There will be a chance later in the Web Chat for some folks to speak, but if you're not speaking, please remain muted. And we have a live captioning service available for those who need captions. You can find it at the bottom of your screen. Or if you're on mobile, there's a button—I think it's in the upper right hand corner—that you can turn your subtitles on or off.

And then one final note: when we're sharing our screen, if you need to change the size of the screen to make it bigger, there's a little bar between the videos and the screen that you can drag to the left or the right to adjust the size. That can help if the screen looks too small to you. The chat function is currently set to be delivered to CDSS hosts only, so if you're having difficulties, please send one of us a message, and we will assist you as best we can. Thanks.

Linda Henry 3:14

Okay, next I have the great honor and pleasure of introducing you to Dr. Kimbi Hagen. Kimbi is the perfect person to be speaking with us this evening, because she's a wonderful combination of being a public health professor at one of the many departments of Emory University, and she's a contra and English country dancer and organizer. Oh, I'm sorry, we need to switch the slides. There we go. Here's a glimpse of Kimbi and all of the wonderful things she's involved with these days.

Kimbi’s email is at the bottom of her bio. We'll be having a chance for Q&A, but she has generously offered to answer any questions that haven't been answered through her email. So Kimbi has spent quite a lot of time and thought on preparing a PowerPoint for our Web Chat this evening. And we'll be doing a little screen sharing swap as we prepare for her PowerPoint.

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 4:34

Hi, everybody. Thank you so much for this opportunity to talk this evening. I'm very excited about it. As Linda mentioned, my life does intersect what we do in two different ways. I work as a public health professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. I'm the director/goddess of the Vaccine Dinner Club, which means that I spend a lot of time thinking about all things vaccines, and my real life is spent in doing music, dance, and all things CDSS. So, I'm so happy to be here.

You know, in many ways, it feels as if we are reliving last summer, June of 2021, when we were in that kind of magic bubble between when vaccines were widely available, and before the advent of the Delta variant. We don't know what the future is going to bring; we don't know whether or not we really are beginning to see a decline in new cases that will be sustained. Or if, even as we are having this meeting tonight, another variant is beginning to stew up somewhere. We don't know.

But no matter what the coming weeks, months, or year brings, my point of my presentation this evening is I would love it if all the organizers here would be able to answer yes to this question. If your event were to become a COVID-19 community spreader, will you feel secure in knowing that you did everything you possibly could to have prevented that from happening?

There are no guarantees. But I am hoping that by the time that this presentation is over, you will feel a lot more comfortable in making decisions to begin to do community-based things in a way that is safe and will allow us to begin to gather together, as we are all very, very much wanting to do.

This is, I'm sure all of you out there who are organizers are facing this yourselves: community desire to reopen activities. I know that the numbers definitely bear this out. This is from the Kaiser Family Foundation poll that took place just this past month in October. And in it, almost half of the people that they polled said that they had basically returned to their before-times life. I mean, people are over this, they are ready to just get back to normal life. Our group, of course, is over here in this 35%, who are doing some but not all the activities they did before the pandemic, because a lot of us in this 35% think of a center part of our life being around communal gatherings for dance, music, and song. So we would like to eventually move ourselves into this group. But it's not going to happen right away because of this.

This came as a headline from the same poll: One in five adults continue to say that they will definitely not get the COVID-19 vaccine, or will only do so if required. We have to assume that at least some of the people who are members of our community will be in this 20%.

It certainly was on my mind, I flew back and forth to Florida this weekend. And I'll tell you that my little immunosuppressed self found being in the airport very frightening. It was astounding how many people were using their masks as chin straps in the airports. On the airplane, no problem. But the airports were really pretty scary. That told me that people really are over this. They are just ready for it to be done.

So how can we be a part of that without actually contributing to the problem? Because in a world in which not every—I mean, in my state, only 50% of everybody eligible right now for a vaccine has been vaccinated. And overall, 20% are saying they're never planning to get vaccinated.

What can happen in a world where this is truth is this: Larry Enlow, I don't actually know if he was ever a member of CDSS, but he might as well have been their poster child. Larry was a dance organizer. He was a musician, a singer, a caller. He started the Atlanta Morris Dance Group. He was, as it says here in the Facebook post, “a kind and gentle soul and a fantastic musician. The world could not afford to lose him. He passed from COVID fully vaccinated and extra careful, as he was the caretaker for his disabled wife, Maureen Kilroy. Still, someone gave him COVID and now he's gone.”

In September, Larry, who was fully vaccinated and as it says here, being very careful, picked up a breakthrough infection, which ended up putting him on a ventilator. And on September the 11th, he died. And it was his funeral that I was attending this past weekend.

Is Larry an outlier? I don't think so, because this is what the United States looked like at the time I pulled this down, about two weeks ago. If you look at the figures in the red box here, what you can see is that about 93% of all of the 3200-plus counties in the United States still, as of two weeks ago, were experiencing high or substantial community transmission of COVID.

This is Canada's picture. I don't have an equivalent map for it. But in the same time period, two weeks ago, when I pulled this map down, in a seven day period, Canada experienced almost 17,000 new cases just in a one week period. So despite the widespread availability of vaccinations, community transmissions of COVID are continuing.

So this brings us to the question: how long is that going to go on? This right here, “When will we get to herd immunity?”, is the single most common question that I get around COVID. And so I want to talk a little bit about that and how it might apply to us and dance.

As I've written here, herd immunity, also known as community immunity, is what happens when so many people in the given population are immune to a disease that an unvaccinated person in that population is protected, simply because they're not likely to ever run into somebody who's infectious.

If you were to imagine a population that had 100 people in it, and of those, 89 people were immune to an infection that one person had, leaving 10 people who weren't infected, they were not not immune to it and not yet infected, the chances of those 10 being able to avoid running into the one person who's infected while going about their daily life, driving around town, going to the grocery store, walking through the neighborhood, the chances are pretty high that they could in fact live a pretty normal life without ever running into that one person who's infected.

This is what herd immunity at a level of 89% looks like, which is pretty darn close to the 90% vaccination level for chickenpox, or immunity level for chickenpox. That is, we think the closest analogy for SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-2 being the second-ever Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome caused by a Coronavirus. We don't know for sure what the vaccination level has to be to protect the few who are not vaccinated from the one who's infectious. The closest analogy we have is for chickenpox, and we're hoping that it doesn't ever turn out to be as bad as for measles. Because those of you who are of a certain age will have remembered [getting] the measles. Those of you who are younger will have gotten the measles vaccination, which is good, because you have to have anywhere between 95 and 98 people in every community vaccinated or immune to measles to keep it from progressing. So long way of saying: it could be worse.

But you know, it can be worse for us, because that picture of the population presupposes that people really only do move in small circles, that they only run into their neighbors at the grocery store while they're walking. But that's not the life we lead in CDSS land. We are—our neighbors are people that we run into every 30 seconds, we turn to another one.

So when will we get to herd immunity? It's a moot point. As Seth Tepfer told me just the other day—I got this straight from him—in a dance hall, herd immunity is a moot point.

So what do we do about that? We accept what we have. and we move forward collectively. Albert Einstein, I think, would have made an excellent member of CDSS in a pandemic, because as he said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity.” And as Naved Abdali says, “It's not a calculated risk if you haven't calculated it.”

So that's what we're going to do this evening. I'm going to talk to you very concretely about what you can do to calculate the risk and mitigate it as much as possible. We cannot eliminate the chance that COVID won't spread at any of our community activities. The only way we could do that is if we just simply refuse to ever hold them, and we don't want to do that. But we can calculate the risk and act on that in a safe way.

This is an acronym [“VAMP”] that I came up with just for this presentation. I thought it might be something that the musicians among us could remember pretty easily. It stands for Vaccines, Air Movement, Masks, and Personal Responsibility. Each of those will help us get to where we want to be as we’re entering the new era of safe gathering: safe singing, safe dancing, safe music.

First, Vaccines. As an organizer, you want to know, you want to require vaccines. The question is, what exactly are you planning to require?

The first thing is: you do not want to accept the Merck COVID pill as a vaccine. You may begin to get questions about that; I am, which is not surprising, because in this Kaiser Family Foundation poll that was done in October, 17% of vaccinated adults and 23% of unvaccinated adults thought that the Merck pill prevents COVID infection. It's not a vaccine. It reduces symptoms in people who have COVID, but it does not prevent infection. So you cannot accept that people say “I don't need to have the vaccine. I'm going to get the pill from my doctor.” Not a thing, not a thing.

So what we do want to do is talk about second shots and boosters, and what the difference is between them. A second shot, for those vaccines that are a two-shot regimen, the second one is a full-dose vaccine that’s designed to finish the job of bringing your immune system up to battle-ready status. And some people like myself, immunosuppressed people, may need a third shot to get the same effect. This is different from a booster shot, which is what's beginning to be rolled out now. Those are half doses that are designed to reenergize a waning immune response in somebody who's already been fully vaccinated.

So Johnson & Johnson has always been designed as a one-dose regimen, and AstraZeneca, for the Canadians who are visiting, are what started out as a one-dose regimen and became a two-dose. But in both cases, for Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, they're saying that if you've only had one dose, you should get a second shot now. And they're suggesting that if you do that, those of you in this position, consider requesting either the Pfizer or the Moderna shot for your second one instead of Johnson & Johnson.

Similarly, those of you who are COVID survivors, if you've recovered from COVID-19, think of that as having been your first shot. The immunity that you gathered from having the virus was your first shot. Get J&J, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, or Moderna series as your second shot. Why? Because COVID-induced immunity fades with time, just like vaccine-induced immunity does.

And—this is cool—the combination of COVID-induced immunity plus vaccine induced immunity provides the broadest protection against breakthrough disease and variants. So when the people in your community ask about, talk about being fully vaccinated, your question is, Have you had both doses? If you did, did you have both doses of Pfizer or Moderna? Did you get a second shot after your first one with Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca? If you are a COVID survivor, have you had your second shot by getting either—any of the series of vaccines that are out there? That's what would make you be considered to be fully vaccinated.

Boosters are just getting rolled out. Pfizer and Moderna are the only ones right now that have boosters out there. If you had your second shot more than six months ago, you may be booster eligible now.

What about our next-generation CDSS members? Their shots are beginning to roll out now. Pfizer, they're operating under an emergency use authorization for the older kids. And tomorrow, November the second, there'll be the final vote by the CDC to determine whether or not the 5- to 10-year-olds will also be eligible for vaccination.

But I want to point out before I move on, sorry, I meant to hit this earlier: An emergency use authorization is—is a thing. It's when the FDA and the CDC have approved the science. The only thing waiting is the government paperwork in triplicate that has to be filed. So what the government has said, the FDA has said, is that we know that the vaccines are safe and effective. We're just going to go ahead and roll them out while the paperwork in triplicate finishes getting filed. So that's where Pfizer is right now. Moderna is just a couple steps behind, under scientific review; J&J is still in clinical trials; and there's no information available right now about pediatric trials for AstraZeneca. But hopefully, we're going to be able to get our next-gen CDSS members vaccinated soon, because that's going to provide additional safety for all of us in our groups who have children of our own or grandchildren of our own.

That was Vaccines. Now we're going to talk about Air Movement. Because COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 aerosols are capable of hanging in the air from several moments to several hours, depending on the air circulation, they can pose a risk to any singer, dancer, caller, musician, sound god, who passes through the airspace an infected person has occupied. It is why air movement matters very, very dramatically in keeping us safe, if we gather to sing or to dance or to play music together, because the less air movement there is, the larger the risk.

There's an example in measles, which as I said, is just slightly more infectious than we think COVID is, in which somebody with a case of measles got into an elevator to go up to their apartment. And three hours later, a person who had never been immunized against measles got into that same elevator and caught the measles three hours after the person with it had left.

We're not worried that COVID is that contagious, but we don't know how much less contagious it is. So truly, the best case is to try to, if it's possible, while the weather is nice, do our events outdoors. Because outdoors, there's a lot of air movement. As the CDC says—the information that's in quotes here is straight from the CDC guidelines. “In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings.” Now, here's the caveat: “You should consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings, and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.” And this is particularly true in, quote unquote, “areas of substantial or high transmission of COVID-19,” which I'd like to remind you is 93% of all US counties right now.

So what does that mean? What does close contact mean for keeping us safe? It means two things. Here's the first: one, being close enough to breathe in the air that someone else is breathing out.

And the different things that we do through CDSS is laid out here. The things that'll be the highest in singing is going to be if you're indoors and you're not spread far apart.

Musicians, if you are not able to wear a mask, or you'll have to wear a specialized mask that will allow you and your instrument to be protected; if you're not in a position to being able to do that, or if you're being crowded by enthusiastic, heavy-breathing dancers who want to applaud you for what you're doing, that can be high risk.

Contra, ECD, morris and rapper, anything that would bring you into close contact with other dancers, other musicians, other singers. I like to point out, by the way, that we should all start doing Morris dancing. Not only is it fun (I mean, like you know, bells!), but Morris dancing with three-foot-long sticks is pretty much the dictionary definition of social dance distancing. Yay for the Morris crowd!

When the cone of danger for infection from the person who is infected and is transmitting, it gets bigger and bigger the harder the infected person is breathing out, and/or an uninfected person is breathing in. You can see this, it's in the picture here. Imagine that you're dancing in a place that is cold enough to see your breath. Anybody who's close enough to be in that breath cone is breathing in what you’re breathing out.

More pungently, have you ever danced with someone who—you could smell their breath? If you're able, if you're close enough to be able to smell their bad breath, you're breathing in what they're breathing out. So bear in mind that you don't have to be just inches from people to be inside their cone of danger. Depending on how hard people are breathing out and breathing in, the danger could extend to people in the next row, set, or line, depending a lot on air movement.

I said there were two ways—two definitions for close contact. This is the second one: touching your eyes, nose or mouth with whatever somebody else just sort of sneezed or coughed out and got on their hands.

Have any of you been to one of the dance camps where, like at Lady of the Lake, Joanie, the infection control nurse, when we first arrived, she would put some stuff on our hands, tell us to go wash your hands, we'd come back, and she would shine a black light on it. And you could see that even after washing your hands, there was still stuff on it. Well, this will happen if you touch your face or rub your eyes after you hold hands, even briefly, with an infected person who has just used their hand to cover their mouth while they coughed or while they sneezed, or they laughed hard. Anything that makes them breathe out into their hands, they hold hands with you, your danger goes up if you touch your face or rub your eyes.

By the way, COVID is a respiratory disease. So a dancer is not at risk for anything beyond getting grossed out by touching someone else's sweat-soaked back or shirt. I get that question every now and then. Nope, not a COVID risk.

Okay, that was Vaccines and Air Movements. On to Masks. The CDC says that if you are doing an indoor event with people who are fully vaccinated, that you should still wear a mask indoors, because Delta. Delta is incredibly contagious, and because of Delta, even if you're fully vaccinated, wear a mask indoors if you're in an area of substantial or high transmission, which right now is all of us. If you're doing an indoor event with people who are not fully vaccinated, this matters even more so. If you're not fully vaccinated, wear a mask in indoor public places.

Now, people who are not fully vaccinated include people with a condition or taking medications that weaken their immune system. They might not be fully protected even if they are considered to be fully vaccinated, because their immune systems aren’t generating enough of a response to protect them.

Also, excuse me, go back one. It also includes people whose immunity is waning with time. Because remember, I said after a while you're going to need a booster to give, to pop up your antibodies.

Okay, let's talk about masks. On one hand, they're hot in a bad way. They slip off your nose; that can make it hard to breathe deeply; they don't work when they're wet; they fog your glasses. But you know, masks are also hot in a really good way, because they're going to make in real life dancing, singing and jamming possible during COVID-19.

Wear your mask properly. This is what I saw happening wrong at the Atlanta and the Tampa airports this weekend, is the people were wearing them below their nose, like the pumpkins here and that lady is. You know, there's a reason why they stick a Q-tip up your nose to test you for COVID—that's where the virus is. So wear your mask correctly, and help keep everybody safe.

If you're going to dance, call, play, sing in a mask, let's talk about what specifics you might want to recommend to everybody in your group. You would like an extra layer, inside layer, of non-cotton breathable fabric, because that will make breathing hard in a mask possible.

If you wear, like, this is one of these beautiful masks—this is by Mary de Felice, I got this from her, from Yellow Cat Productions, and I can make it easier to breathe in this mask while I'm breathing hard if I take just a standard medical mask and I wear it underneath it. This mask, which is like the one I've actually got around my neck right now, has a sewn-in breathable layer. That helps also. I mean, I can jog in this mask. Also this combination of it works just fine. Adding this will help with keeping your glasses from being fogged. It will allow you to exercise more vigorously, comfortably while wearing a mask.

You also want to have a lanyard, you want to ask people to have a lanyard on their mask or their necks. That way they don't take them off, put them down, and walk away without them. They just kind of hang around your neck all the time. It also works—like, Mary's masks have a back strap that you can use, just pull it down over there and let it hang around your neck.

Adjustable ear loops or a head strap are a must. I don't know how often I have seen—today, I had a guest speaker in the class that I was teaching this afternoon in public health, and he spent the entire time he was talking, every second sentence, he'd have to pull his mask back up his face because his ear loops were too loose and his mask just kept slipping down. Adjustable ear loops will keep that from happening while you're dancing vigorously, or while you're singing, or while you're jamming.

A flexible nose clip is an absolute must, because that keeps your glasses from fogging up, again, while you are exercising hard.

And no bandanas! Just say no to bandanas. That is COVID theater. And that's all it is. Because a bandana might be tight across the bridge of your nose and around the back, but on the sides, it's loose. Everything you breathe out is just going out into the outside world. Everything everybody else is breathing out is just coming right into you. No bandanas.

Drink responsibly. Metal straws make it possible to drink water without removing your mask. So you might want to consider having these for sale at your event. That way, you can—people can stay hydrated while they're exercising without having to take their mask off.

All right, Vaccines, Air Movement, Masks, Personal Responsibility. This is the concern: will your participant exhibit personal responsibility to themselves and to our community as a way of keeping all of us safe? That includes that unvaccinated people choose not to game the system and try to sneak into a vaccinated-only event; that vaccinated people choose to get boosters when they're available to them, in order to keep their immunity robust; that everyone chooses to avoid putting themselves in harm's way; and that anyone who is in a situation in which an exposure may have occurred, chooses to behave as if they are infected until proven otherwise.

What do we do with all this information I give? This is what I call the Event Organizer Olympics. Any time I'm organizing a dance weekend, this is my call to action here. Body, action, space, time, and energy. When you turn this into the Pandemic Event Organizer Olympics, you end up dealing with masks, air exchange, social distancing, vaccination and testing, and community readiness. So we'll talk about those.

Risk mitigation. Ask yourself as you're organizing an event: what is your plan for air exchange? Are you going to be able to bring in enough outside air and keep it moving around so that you don't have to worry about aerosols of COVID just hanging in the air where people can walk through them or dance through them? Which means asking yourself, asking your venue owner, does the AC in your venue bring in outside air? Or is it just heating or cooling and then recirculating the inside air? That is going to make a difference. So you find out what your plan for air exchange is.

What's your plan for masks? If you're outside, will you need masks? Perhaps not. But if your event is going to be in a crowded setting, or it's going to involve, as the CDC says, engaging in close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated, which can include people who are due for a booster and haven't gotten it yet, or people whose immunity is, they're immunosuppressed, so so their vaccine isn't working as well as it should be—In those situations, are you going to be asking everybody to wear a mask?

If you're indoors, will you require everyone at your event who is coming from an area of high or sustained transmission, which right now is all of us, to wear a mask? What about the musicians who play wind instruments? They have got specialized masks for wind instruments and for musicians who play them. Will they have those available?

And then dance organizers. Can you safely host a mask-optional line? You know, you have to think about it for a minute. If you're dancing outside, for instance, if you're having a dance in the bumper car pavilion at Glen Echo, and it's outside and everybody's vaccinated, you could probably have a mask-optional line. It will need to be physically distanced from the others, but you're outside where the air movement is, and everybody's vaccinated.

Now, could you do the same thing where we dance, which is in a community center in Decatur, Georgia that we don't own, and therefore cannot—the venue is closed right now, but when it reopens, we're not going to be allowed to even enforce a vaccine or mask, because it's a community center that we don't own. So, should we have a mask-optional line under those conditions? No, we shouldn't. It depends on the air exchange. It's gonna affect your ability to have masks, what you should do with masks is dependent whether you're indoors or you're outdoors.

What's your plan for social distancing? Will anyone who is unable to wear a mask, for instance, a caller, or a wind instrument or musician who doesn't have a specialized mask, are you going to be able to get them physically distanced from everybody else, and they can still participate in their part of the evening? Will event staff be able to come and go from where they need to be without having to walk right through where dancers are breathing heavily, or singers are singing heavily?

And will it be safe and feasible to have a designated food area? Safe and feasible, not the same thing. You would need to be able to do both of those. Can you have that safely? Again, remember, maybe you want to sell those little metal straws and put out things like pretzels, because you can always sneak pretzels in underneath your mask, so that people can eat without taking their masks off.

What is your plan for vaccinations and testing? Will you require testing? Will you provide it yourself? If so, what's the timeframe? Remember that it takes five to seven days before the antibodies to COVID get to be plentiful enough in your body for the test to register accurately. So are you going to ask for a negative test if you're running a dance week, for instance? And if so, how long before the week does that test have to be taken? And how long after the dance week is started? Do you want to wait until you're certain that, and perhaps you retest, as CDSS did at Pinewoods this past summer, to make sure that everybody who showed up uninfected really truly was uninfected.

Are you going to require vaccinations? If you are, are you also going to require boosters? If so, on what time frame? Are you going to ask people how long it's been since they had their last booster? What's your policy for unvaccinated COVID survivors, and people who want to provide documentation of a negative test result in lieu of a vaccination card? You need to think that through; it has to be part of your plan. And will you connect information for contact tracing?

And then finally, what's your plan for assessing community readiness? What is the transmission rate in your area? Are you part of the 97%, I'm sorry, the 93%? How risk tolerant is your local song/music/dance community? Are they ready to take some managed risks, some calculated risks, or not? Is your venue even open? Is your organization prepared to accept or address any of the liability issues that arise, as had been discussed in previous CDSS Web Chats, for which you can watch the recordings on the CDSS website? Are the individuals who make up your volunteer base comfortable with your event plan for air movement, mass vaccinations, et cetera? And are you comfortable with the plan? Are you in a position of being able to embrace the plan yourself? Those are questions that you and your group need to decide before you put together an event in the era of COVID.

So I'm going to end now with addressing some questions that came in during the registration process. These two: one, how risky is it for fully vaccinated, healthy seniors who are over the age of 65 to contra dance indoors with non-vaccinated, mask-wearing dancers? And a related question, what do you think of a public dance indoors where vaccinations and masks are optional? Those both are very risky. Sorry, they just are. There are ways to get around that, as we've just spent time discussing. Third question, is it safe to dance indoors, only vaccinated, and masks permitted? It's certainly safer than the above. And if you pay attention to air exchange, vaccines, air exchange and personal responsibility, you're going to be in a much better shape to be able to have that indoor dance.

This question is new, about boosters: they want to know, will boosters impact the level of immunity in the coming months? In the case of SARS-CoV-2 immunity, they wane with time. So the definition of fully immunized is in fact in transition now from meaning—earlier on, when somebody said they were fully vaccinated, it meant that they'd had both shots. Now, it means they've had every dose they're eligible for. So fully vaccinated right now is coming to mean:

  • “I had COVID, but I also got a vaccine series.”
  • “I had J&J, which is a one-shot regimen. But I also got a second shot of Moderna and Pfizer.”
  • “I had AstraZeneca, and I had both doses. I'm good, fully vaccinated.”
  • “I only had one dose, and I got the second one as being Pfizer or Moderna.”
  • “I have had all of my doses, and I've had every booster that I am currently eligible for.”

In that case, that's the new meaning of fully immunized.

Should organizers require boosters? After what I just said, you can guess the answer to that, being yes.

And does getting the booster provide any additional protection against shedding the virus? This is how the question that came in at registration was worded. it confers additional protection against shedding lethal virus. If you have a booster, if you're fully immunized and you've had boosters, you can still get COVID. But you are probably not going to get sick from it. That's not uniformly true—Larry Enlow here. But if you do become infected, the virus that you transmit is going to be much, much weaker than the virus that a person who is not vaccinated is transmitting. Because the virus that you're transmitting is being covered, has covered up with antibodies from the vaccines and boosters that you've got, natural immunity you got from having had COVID, and therefore, the virus that the other person receives is going to be a lot weaker and going to have a harder time catching. So that's the answer to that.

I think that might be—Oh, yeah. Will this pandemic ever be over? Yes, it will. But it's not over yet.

If it will ever be safe to sing, dance, play music together in person, what conditions will make this possible? VAMP: Vaccinations, Air Movement, Masks, and Personal Responsibility. And that is my presentation.

Linda Henry 42:46

Thank you so much, Kimbi. Oh, you have poured yourself into this, and we really appreciate hearing so much valuable information. We will now move into a fairly short period of Q&A for Kimbi, so....

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 43:05

Because Kimbi talked too long. I'm really sorry. I swear, I practiced this and I practiced, and I had it under 30 minutes, and it just took forever. I'm so sorry.

Linda Henry 43:13

No, it was all very important. So Sarah, will you take it from here with the Q&A?

Sarah Pilzer 43:21

Sure. So, if you have questions for Kimbi, go ahead and put them in the chat, and those will go to me and the other hosts, and I will start reading them out loud.

Linda Henry 43:33

We probably have about five minutes.

Sarah Pilzer 43:37

Okay, we have our first question. It's about which kind of mask are you recommending: N95s, KN95s, KN94s, cloth masks, etc. Do you have a recommendation about the best kind of mask?

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 43:54

Well, I mean, it depends—the best kind of masks for what are you doing? For just walking around in a crowded indoor setting, N95s are great, but you know, they are really really hard to dance and do anything energetic in. So I think realistically, they're not going to be the solution for us. The other solution is to use a mask, as I said, you want several layers, and preferably the innermost layer is one that's non-cotton and breathable, because that will just make it easy to breathe hard.

Sarah Pilzer 44:27

Follow-up to that is: if dance organizers are requiring a mask, what level of masks should they require? Is there a recommendation for that?

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 44:38

What you would be requiring is a mask that fits like this. It fits snugly across your nose, fits around the side of your face, fits under your chin. You want, you do not want to be able to breathe out and feel it on your hands. There will be air movement, otherwise you would suffocate, but you should not be able to feel the breath on your hands when you breathe out. That's what it takes. It's less about who makes the mask as the fact that it actually fits around your nose and mouth.

Sarah Pilzer 45:20

Thank you. Okay, this is about mixing different vaccine types. Johnson & Johnson is a different sort of vaccine than Pfizer or Moderna. So if you have Johnson & Johnson and then get a follow-up with Pfizer or Moderna, does one shot of Pfizer or Moderna after Johnson & Johnson count? Or do you really need two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna after you've had Johnson & Johnson?

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 45:44

One, if you had Johnson & Johnson first, you're going to get a more robust response if your second shot is Pfizer or Moderna than if your second shot was Johnson & Johnson, if you got a second Johnson & Johnson shot, but you only need one of those. So your first shot J&J; second shot Pfizer or Moderna—done, until booster time.

Sarah Pilzer 46:09

Great. Speaking of boosters, how often after a booster might another booster be necessary? Do we know how long and—

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 46:20

No, time is going to tell on that. You know, boosters are just now being rolled out, so we're going to have to wait and see. Believe me, epidemiologists are spending careers now on gathering that data. But we don't have an answer. You know, the truth is that the flu, influenza, even if we didn't have to get a shot every year because the flu morphs a little bit every year, we would still have to get a flu shot every year, because your immunity to influenza wanes over time. So we're not surprised that this is waning over time. Right now, the assumption is that it may be around a year or less, and maybe around eight months. But we—truth is, we don't know this is still—information is still being generated, you know. So stay tuned! News at 10.

Sarah Pilzer 47:08

What is a good target for air exchange in a room?

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 47:13

You know, I don't have the answer to that in my head. I’ll bet that that answer exists. And I'd be happy to see if I can't find it and provide that information to the organizers later.

Sarah Pilzer 47:25

Great. And sort of related, would you say that a fan running in an enclosed space improves or worsens transmission probability because it spreads the air around?

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 47:35

Well, it's not great, but it's going to be better than no fan in an enclosed space, because moving the air around is going to disperse whatever virus aerosols that are hanging in the air. It's just going to move them farther apart. So any person walking through is going to be exposed to fewer of them than they would have if they'd walk through a space that had aerosols hanging in the air with no air movement. So not great, but better than no fan in an enclosed space.

Sarah Pilzer 48:06

Great. Does on-site rapid testing reduce risk for a weekend event where vaccination is required?

Dr. Kimbi Hagen

I'm sorry, could you repeat that?

Sarah Pilzer

Sure. Does on-site rapid testing reduce risk for a weekend event where vaccination is required?

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 48:24

A weekend event, versus, say a week long event. The test is only going to show you what your status was at the moment the test was done. So if it shows negative, you might truly be negative. On the other hand, you might have gotten infected so recently that you haven't built up antibodies that are detectable by the test. You may have been infected within the last week or so, and that test would still show negative. So it's why they're actually better for a week-long dance, because you can ask people to get a test prior to the dance, quarantine themselves until the dance begins, and then retest them a couple of days in, to make sure that those tests were accurate. For a weekend event, it might be less useful.

Linda Henry 49:17

Okay, Sarah, one more.

Sarah Pilzer 49:19

Okay, last one. Any questions we didn't get to we'll save and send to Kimbi afterwards. Last one: How does a mask being wet or saturated affect its effectiveness?

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 49:31

It pretty much negates it. A wet mask is not a useful mask. So, right. Just, if you're dancing in an area where masks might get wet because it's really hot and humid or it's raining, then it's just kind of like the other dances that we would do, where we brought extra T-shirts or extra dresses: bring extra masks.

Sarah Pilzer 49:55

Great advice. Thank you.

Linda Henry 49:57

Great, so Kimbi you had mentioned that your PowerPoint does include further slides. Could you say a quick thing about that?

Dr. Kimbi Hagen 50:06

Yes, I feel fairly strongly that whether they want to be or not, organizers of singing, dancing, music events are also going to have to be community educators. So I wanted to make it possible to provide y'all with teaching points about these things we've been talking about. So the slides that I'm going to provide to CDSS for posting, for download for y'all, is going to have slides that I didn't talk about this evening, that has got talking points on it in more detail. And of course, as I provided my email address here, feel free to write to me.

And before I turn it over to you, two quick things. One, yes, indeed, person who put this in the comment in the chat, I did misspeak. Cara, I said that the upcoming decision on vaccines was for 5 to 10. But it really is, yes, it's for 5 to 11. I misspoke. 12-year-olds and up is already out there under emergency use, and what we're waiting to find out is about vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds. Yes.

And the last thing I wanted to say before I turn it over is: thank you very much, Seth Tepfer and Pam Eidson for letting me come to your house. Right before this started, the internet went down at my house. And so I drove like a maniac across town, and I am currently—welcome to the Eidson-Tepfer household, which is also like June of 2021, when the internet went out at their house and so they came over to mine. So yay, finally had an opportunity, so thank you guys. Appreciate it. Okay, back to you, Linda.

Linda Henry 51:39

Oh, Kimbi, we can't thank you enough. You are just such an amazing resource for music, dance and song organizers. So everybody, keep Kimbi in mind if questions come up. And she has very generously offered to do her best to find the answers for questions.

Okay, we are going to switch gears. Next slide, please, Nikki. And moving into a very different portion of the Web Chat, we're going to experiment with using breakout rooms as a way that we can generate lots of ideas, especially for people, for organizers, who will be heading into a couple more months of not resuming their events yet, and needing ways to keep your communities connected. And so we're gonna have about 20 minutes of meeting in small groups. I'll explain in the next slide about how it will actually work.

But here are a few questions to take with you to prime the pump. You could begin by thinking about successful ways you've already been engaging your group during the pandemic, and see if there are any variations on those, and if you share them with your small group, those may be new ideas for other organizers. Another question: any new ideas for safe ways to be involved with music, dance and song? Trying out an outdoor flash mob, for example. Last but not least, think about any other activities that your community members might enjoy. Here's a shot of our front yard last winter, having fun making snow sculptures. I remember hearing from the Greenfield dance organizers up the road from where I live that they couldn't dance inside their dance hall, so they had outdoor concerts outside their dance hall. Well, maybe in winter, they could be making snow sculptures of dancers in their parking lot outside the dance hall.

So those are just a few ideas to get you started. And when you're meeting in a group, please keep remembering that all ideas are welcome. Next slide.

So we'll be breaking up, we'll be meeting in small groups of five to six people. Feel free to turn on your videos and unmute yourself. Begin with a very quick go-around so you hear each other's name and location and the focus of your group. And then make sure you find a person in your group who's willing to jot down the ideas that you come up with, because that person will then be sharing ideas from your group when we get back together.

And so before you end the 20 minutes, take just a few minutes to clarify the descriptions of your ideas, because your volunteer will be typing those into the Web Chat after we all come back together in the Zoom room.

So we will now, with help from Crispin, be sent off to our breakout rooms. By the way, many people have probably been using some form or another of online ways for engaging communities. That's fine. And it would be great to generate some ideas that don't involve screen time. Okay, take it away.

Linda Henry 55:49

Looks like we're mostly back. Thank you for participating in this big experiment of crowdsourcing ideas. Next, Sarah is going to explain how the share out will work.

Sarah Pilzer 56:06

Great. So we've turned on chat, so that now your messages that you put in chat will go to everyone. And what we're hoping is that the volunteers who said they would be willing to share back, we'll both put some of your ideas in chat, and use the raise hand feature. If you're not familiar with that, it's under the reactions button at the bottom of your screen, to get in line. And I'll then start calling on folks to read their ideas back to the group. So go ahead and start putting things in chat, as well as raise your hands. And I see David. Oh, one more thought. If you could please say where you're calling in from, when you share your idea. We'd love to see the geographic distribution that we have. So, David, take it away.

David Beaufait 56:59

I'm calling from the upper valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, upper Connecticut River Valley. We were also represented by at least Portland, Rochester, New York. I probably don't have all the rest of them. But the bottom line is that none of us are sponsoring live events at this time. And in part concerned regarding the—despite compliance earlier in the year with some mask and vaccine requirements for a few indoor and mostly outdoor events, and, unfortunately, that no insurance covers either the organizing group, nor the individuals doing the organizing, for coverage regarding any COVID liability that should come up in the future.

Linda Henry 58:03

So David, did anyone in your group talk about possible ways to keep your group engaged during this time?

David Beaufait 58:13

Unfortunately, we didn't get that far.

Linda Henry 58:16

Okay, that's fine. These conversations are valuable, pretty much no matter what happens, but we do want to see if there are any ideas floating around, so other volunteers feel free to chime in about that.

Sarah Pilzer 58:31

Margaret Bary, I see your hand raised.

Margaret Bary 58:34

Okay, I'm from the New York City area, and our group included dancers in upstate New York, Phoenix, DC, Greenfield, and Sacramento. And interestingly enough, not CDNY itself but the New York City area seems to be the only one out of all those areas that is now actively holding indoor, masked and vaccinated English country dancing. And some of our ideas included outdoor pavilions, a good option for warmer winter dancing, so some had used that during the summer. And my sword dance team is currently practicing outdoors in a playground area.

Sarah Pilzer 59:27

Great, thanks. Perry, would you like to go next?

Perry Shafran 59:33

Yes, I would. I'm Perry and I'm calling in from Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of the Washington DC area. We are having - some members of our group are dancing. We in Glen Echo are hosting not the Friday night dancers, but a private dance at the Bumper Car Pavilion this Thursday night, which should be interesting. We also had someone from Bloomington who is having a dance, having regular dances outdoors. Actually, the people organizing the Glen Echo dance used Bloomington as the model for that dance. There's also another group that’s having a dance against the desires of the person who was in our room.

So we have, I wouldn’t say we have many ideas that I put down for the group, but we did a lot of brainstorming. First of all, you know, the outdoor dances that Bloomington have been having. They're fully vaxxed, they're outdoors, they have a mask-optional line and a mask-required line, but they may be moving indoors, and probably will require masks for everyone. The Zoom dances, which I've been running for, many people have been running for the past year and a half, they’re still a thing, they're still ongoing. There's actually one every Saturday night. Some people are getting their outdoor pavilion potlucks, fire pit to stay warm when it gets cold. For people, if you live in a state like Florida or Texas, they actually are fining organizations for checking for vaccinations or mandating masks, so suggesting that maybe we just have an independent person do it, and can try to skirt that and maybe there won’t be a problem.

Linda Henry 1:01:28

Okay, Perry, I think we need to move to other people—

Perry Shafran

Oh, too much?

Linda Henry

Well, yeah, I hadn't made this clear, but in order to accommodate all the groups, if each person who volunteered could read at least one of your ideas—

Perry Shafran

Oh, sorry, I thought we were reading all the ideas. I'm sorry.

Linda Henry 1:01:48

I would love to hear a little bit about every group. However, with the time that we have, let's focus on ideas from the groups to share, to help other groups keep their communities connected and engaged while they're not having in-person dances.

Sarah Pilzer 1:02:11

Feel free to put all those other ideas in the chat as well, because we're gonna save those. And yes, so if you have extra ideas to share, please do put those in the chat.

Linda Henry

Yes.

Sarah Pilzer

All right. Pam, I see your hand raised. Feel free to unmute there, Pam. I can do it if you need help. There you go.

Pam Ruch 1:02:36

Okay, I'm from Bethlehem, PA. Our dance is Valley Contra. What was interesting in our group is that four of the six have actually had in-person dance events of one kind or another, mostly outdoors. The indoors ones had consistently vaccinations required, masks required. And the two that were unable to hold indoor events actually were unable, not through any, not through their own decisions, but because of dictates from above, either from the governor of the state or whatever.

Anyway, we didn't talk much about what we have done to stay connected. Our group has had two potlucks, which were really helpful. People really enjoyed them. We do have an event coming up, again, masked indoors, fans, windows open, all those, you know, vaccinations required.

One comment that was really interesting was by someone who had organized a morris weekend. And it worked out well. She said there were no COVID problems. However, the biggest problem in that event was personal responsibility. In other words, they made the rules, but they weren't always followed. So I see that as, you know, an interesting comment and something that we need to be aware of. You know, you can tell people to stay distant. But how do you enforce that? So that was mostly our takeaway.

Sarah Pilzer 1:04:20

Great. Thanks, Tim. You're up next.

Tim Swartz 1:04:28

Hi, folks. I'm from the Montpelier, Vermont contra dance. The group that I was in, one idea I thought I would share is, we had one person in the group named Noel Kropf, I believe, who recommended that people try doing dances that can be done solo, including Hungarian and Balkan and Scandinavian dances, for example, as alternatives, to be able to dance over Zoom, when you can't do partner dances so easily.

We also speculated about possibly, whether the unusual time signatures, you know, 11/16 and things like that, might really confuse the virus. We thought that was a subject that could maybe use some additional research. Seemed like a great idea, anyway.

Sarah Pilzer 1:05:30

Thanks, Tim. Totally agree. Peter and Thelma?

Peter and Thelma Thompson 1:05:40

We had a good discussion. I guess the one idea that came up didn't come from a dance, but it could have: using Eventbrite to issue tickets for a limited number of people. And as tickets were issued, one could also make clear the requirements for masking, for vaccination, and whatever else one chose to. Some other ideas came up, but that was one that gave us some thought, I think. Maybe dancing on snowshoes as a way to, in the winter, maintain some distance.

Sarah Pilzer 1:06:26

Love the creativity. Great. Sandy, go ahead.

Kate 1:06:34

I'm the Kate that goes along with the Sandy. We're from the Southern New Hampshire, Milford contra dance. There may be other people in the list, because we didn't actually get around to giving a community leader. But there was an idea about renting an outdoor skating rink and you know, having music at the skating rink. What we've been doing in Milford is that we had been sending out, by email, a monthly newsletter, that we worked out, where people sent us in articles and we compose them onto a newsletter. We send it out monthly. And now we've just recently dropped back to a monthly email, with the idea being that we didn't want to lose everybody, you know, that we wanted them to sort of remember that we were here and keep them up to date as to what we were thinking about, about where we were with COVID. So I think that those were the two ideas that I’d repeat.

Sandy Lafleur

I would just add that part of the reason of the newsletter is that we have a very large musician base. It's an open band, so anywhere between a dozen and 20 musicians. And so one of the articles in the newsletter would often be about a tune, we would ask a musician to write an article about a tune, and we’d often have music in the newsletter. So that would go out, and just something to keep people's minds busy and connected.

Sarah Pilzer 1:08:02

Love it. Great. Richard?

Richard Dempsey 1:08:07

I'm typing madly here. So, yes, I'm calling in from Rochester, New York. I see that at least one of my fellow organizers, Lisa Brown, is also here. Some of the things that came out of my breakout group—well, in Rochester, we've had a weekly contra walk, held at the same time as the regular dance. We had to stop that when daylight savings ended because of the dark. We had at least one case where musicians crashed the walk and accompanied us with a Swedish walking tune.

One of the things that happened was that a club used the time to review and revise their mission and their policies. So hopefully, that will stand them in good stead when we can come back even stronger.

We've had a—and Lisa would help me, I think there was an ECD bingo event held online. Although it might have been a dance trivia event.

Lisa Brown 1:09:32

No, bingo, several times.

Richard Dempsey 1:09:35

Okay.

Lisa Brown 1:09:37

ECD bingo.

Richard Dempsey 1:09:41

And it’s been discovered that there have been several cases where small dance parties have happened in people's backyards at the same time as some of the online Zoom dances, and so there's an interesting adaptation, where a slide would be put up with the instructions for the regular dance. That was posted while the caller, the online caller, was teaching the adaptations.

Sarah Pilzer

Great. Thanks. If you have any others—

Richard Dempsey

Yep, that's my list.

Sarah Pilzer 1:10:18

Great. Yeah, feel free to add more to the chat later too. Linda. See if I can help you with the unmuting there, I think you're still muted, Linda. Sorry.

Linda Kowalski 1:10:48

I did unmute myself. Okay. I'm from Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. And I can also speak to Victoria, which is also in British Columbia. I see that Bonnie has already put out the idea of line dancing from our group. And we talked about folk dancing, which is proceeding apace in Vancouver and also in Victoria, with a variation of line dancing.

And I suggested, and I put a comment in here asking CDSS or anybody else, if they have the link to contra dancing for two people. In other words, for one couple. Somewhere on the web, there's choreography and music for contra dancing for one couple. Because the idea I had was if you could have like, contra, there are a couple of line dances that we do in folk dance—Over the Rainbow is one some of you may know; it's an Irish American dance. Another one is Yolanda, which is another—these are folk dances done on one space. And if we put one couple on that space, and then another couple, six feet away, on a space, and another couple, six feet away on a space, all of them contra dancing only with each other, effectively, that's contra dancing. Okay. So anyway, that's an idea that came up, which I thought was kind of unique.

Sarah Pilzer 1:12:23

Thank you. Val, now your turn.

Val Medve 1:12:29

Thanks, Sarah. So basically, one of the things that came out of our little meeting, because we talked on so many different topics, was that community members can meet outside in a yard, in an open garage, an outdoor public space, and just get together that way. So that was it.

Sarah Pilzer 1:12:57

Thanks! Deb.

Deb Karl 1:13:00

I'm in the Boston area, and I do English country dance. And CDS Boston has a social Zoom call once or twice a month. We try for, I think we're trying now for the second and the fourth Wednesday, and we would dance on Wednesday nights. And there's maybe 15 regulars, and it's just a great chance to see our dance friends’ faces and talk about vaccinations, talk about the walks we've been on, just talk about anything, but keep the community connected in that way. And I just also wanted to make a note of how our individual communities have all grown. And so we have, you know, everybody in the United States and then people in various places around the world, meeting up at these online concerts and doing little chats, Facebook chat or something. The extension of community is tremendous. And having all this wonderful music to listen to is fabulous.

Sarah Pilzer

Yeah, we've connected beyond the local.

Deb Karl

Exactly.

Sarah Pilzer

Great.

Linda Henry 1:14:21

Sarah, I think we have time for two quick ones.

Sarah Pilzer 1:14:24

All right, I see Stan Swanson and Bonnie Milner. Those will be our last two. There you go.

[Unknown speaker in room with Stan Swanson] 1:14:46

Okay, one of the people in our group said that there were some backyard parties where a caller had written some dances without any partner changes, and without face-to-face interactions that worked both for English and for contra. So that was one of the ways that that group coped.

Sarah Pilzer

Great. Thanks. And Bonnie.

Bonnie Milner 1:15:20

I'm going to turn my attention to some of the music and singing particularly. We've really discussed a lot of dance here. One thing that's been working very well are Zoom sessions for singing—ballad sessions in particular, where it's one singer, one song, and then Zoom shanty sessions, where there's a leader and you sing at home. Of course, we miss the harmony singing, but now that we're able to get into pods, groups of people can be in a location on a Zoom call, and stream their harmonies and their instruments and so on and so forth. So that's been a positive.

And the big positive out of it is that it has brought us together globally, I mean, people from all over the world. And so that's been a very positive thing with the Zoom during pandemic.

We also discussed—the organizer of Falconridge was there, and being that I'm also organizing a sea music festival with some other friends, we were talking about, what kind of venues? Are we doing it outdoors? Is it going to be in tents? Are we asking people to be vaccinated? Or do we require it and who's going to be the vaccine police? There's a lot of angles, and the only—it's just going to reveal itself as time goes forward. But I was disturbed in the chat to see tonight the fact that organizations and individuals who sponsor organizations cannot insure themselves if they have an event, and somebody comes down with COVID. And I really would like to know some more answers about that.

Sarah Pilzer 1:17:04

Yeah, we'll see if we can address that in a future Web Chat.

Bonnie Milner

Yeah. But thank you.

Linda Henry 1:17:11

Okay, everyone, thank you so much. This has been a very successful experiment. I was pretty nervous going into this. But from what I can tell, there were lots of ideas shared, and hopefully your breakout rooms themselves helped you to feel more connected to other organizers.

Okay, next slide. We're gonna run through these resources very quickly. We have online programs happening through CDSS. Take a look here. Contra Pulse is a series of interviews from musicians about the ways that contra dance music has been evolving. And the next Common Time is for callers by Mary Devlin, a caller on the West Coast. And we are already beginning to plan our next Web Chat, which will be for organizers who have resumed their events. So we'll be providing news and experiences from those organizers.

We are going to do one more little experiment on this Web Chat. It’s that we are debating about whether to have this next Web Chat in mid December, or early January. And we would like to do a quick poll of everyone participating in this Web Chat, to give us feedback about which of those two time frames you would prefer. So Crispin is gonna explain how that's gonna work.

Crispin Youngberg 1:18:49

Yeah, sorry about that. Linda, the poll function isn't working for us right now. So we're going to put that in the follow-up survey instead.

Linda Henry 1:18:55

Okay, I'll put it in the follow up survey. Next slide. So very quickly, here are some COVID-related resources from CDSS. Take a look at our Portal, and we have included something called Reentry Resources for Organizers. And there's still the listing of online events that you can find and submit your event, and we're still encouraging people to support gigging artists however you can. Next slide.

There are many more ways that CDSS is offering resources for organizers. The Portal as I mentioned; Shared Weight is an online discussion group; grants, which I'll mention in the next slide, these Web Chats, which all have materials on our website. There are news articles; the CDSS News often has articles for organizers; and one on one support with yours truly, if any of you are having issues and concerns and challenges in your, in your communities, it's always fine to email resources@cdss.org and chat with me about possible ways we can help.

We do encourage all groups who have not yet become affiliates to consider that option. And, not mentioned here, but any time any of you are able to contribute to CDSS, it helps us keep these Web Chats going. Next slide.

We do have some funding left this year for community grants. So I want to plant a seed for each of you. If you have any ideas of ways you want to be boosting your community, you can take a look here at the options, and also check out our website, where you can find all the application materials.

By the way, we have offered five grants to help groups hire consultants for cultural equity and antiracism trainings. We’re using our grant funding for that purpose. And these groups are finding it very helpful to be doing this work during the pandemic with their organizing committee. Next slide.

So for following up, we always appreciate hearing feedback from the participants to help us be planning more successful events in the future. We also look to you for input for topics that you would like to have covered in future Web Chats. I just wrote down the question about insurance. So look for an email from me tomorrow that includes a form that you can give us your valuable feedback.

In a few days, you can check our Web Chat page on the website and access the video recording, PowerPoint, and transcription of this evening's Web Chat. And if you have friends that weren't able to join us, feel free to let them know they can find this information on the website.

So we weren't able to do our quick poll during this Web Chat, so stay tuned, we'll be sending updates about the time and more information about the next Web Chat. If you are not on our email list, be sure to sign up so that you can continue to receive announcements about future Web Chats.

So I want to end by thanking every single person on this Web Chat. We know that you as organizers are the ones who are keeping these traditions going. And a very important part of the mission of CDSS is to do what we can to support organizers. So please remember that you can be in touch with us at any point. We're always interested to know about things that you need and ways we could be creating new resources that could help meet these needs.

So we're going to leave the screen up for a few minutes while you wave to your friends across the country on the screen. And we are very grateful to all of you again for joining us and we hope to see you on future Web Chats. Thanks so much everybody. We will leave it up for just a couple of minutes for you to say your farewells.

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?

David Norton

I don't think so.

Linda Henry

Okay, so those lists of references. Okay.

David Norton

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?”

David Norton

I think I would. Yeah.

Sarah Pilzer

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.

Sarah Pilzer

Great.

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?

Sarah Pilzer

Great question.

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.

Bruce Baker

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.

Sarah Pilzer

Great.

David Macemon

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?

David Macemon

I use Excel. [laughing]

Sarah Pilzer

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.

Sarah Pilzer

Great.

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.

David Macemon

Thank you.

Linda Henry

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 resources@cdss.org. 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.

Unknown Speaker

Will do. Thank you all, and we hope you'll all be dancing soon.

Linda Henry

Yes. Whenever it seems like it's safe.

Unknown Speaker

It's good to feel like we're all in this together.

Linda Henry 1:29:31

Yes. Yes, it is.

Unknown Speaker

That’s for sure. This has really helped in that way also

Linda Henry

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.

Various Speakers

Yeah. Yes.

Unknown Speaker

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.

Linda Henry

Yeah.

Bruce 1:30:41

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.

Various Speakers

Thank you. Thank you, CDSS.

Unknown Speaker 1:31:26

Hats off to CDSS.

Unknown Speaker

Thank you, and good to see everyone.

Sarah Pilzer 1:31:35

Alright, see you next time.

Various Speakers

Bye.

Linda Henry

Bye bye, David.

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.

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.

Next slide.

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.

Sarah Pilzer

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

Okay. Thanks.

Ann Marie Noonan

Of course.

Linda Henry

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 ben@cdss.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

Thanks everybody.

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.

Sarah Pilzer

Yes, higher risk.

Michal Warshow

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.

Sarah Pilzer

Great.

Michal Warshow

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.

Michal Warshow

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 joanna@cdss.org. 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.

Linda Henry
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.

Link to Dr. Dorry Segev's video

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.

"Vaccine Distribution—Equity Left Behind?" from the Journal of the American Medical Association

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.

Sarah Pilzer
Ah, right.

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: resources@cdss.org.

Katy German 2:17:40
Thank you, Linda. I also want to share that I welcome emails directly to me, katy@cdss.org. 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
Great.

Web Chats for OrganizersIn 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).

Join us for our next Web Chat:

Check back soon for more information. Questions? Contact resources@cdss.org


Let's Talk About Reentry, Part 7: Singing Together Safely

May 3, 2022
An online discussion to support organizers of song groups

In this Web Chat, we heard first-hand experiences from two organizers about keeping their song groups alive and well through the pandemic by hosting in-person and online singing events. Our third guest provided the latest COVID-19 news from her public health perspective, offering suggestions especially pertinent for song group organizers. We included Q&A with all three guests:

  • Janice Hanson from Golden Link Folk Singing Society in Rochester, NY
  • Steve Deering from Vancouver Folk Song Society in Vancouver, BC
  • Dr. Kimbi Hagen, public health professor from Atlanta, GA

Help us launch a new reentry resource!

During the February 2022 Web Chat, we introduced a new online resource from CDSS: Groups that Have Resumed In-person Events. If your group is considering reentry, check out this page and access firsthand experiences from groups that have reopened their events. If your group has resumed and would like to pass along what you’ve been learning, please take our survey. Questions? Email resources@cdss.org.

Let's Talk About Reentry, Part 6: Prioritizing Safety at In-person Dances

February 28, 2022
An online panel discussion featuring organizers of dance events

CDSS Executive Director Katy German had a conversation with three contra dance organizers who have resumed in-person dancing. We heard what adjustments they’ve made to their “normal” processes, what impacted their decision to resume, what they’re asking of participants, and what they recommend to others. We also presented a new online resource from CDSS to help organizers share how they are resuming their events and connect with others who are trying similar strategies.

Our brave panelists:

Sherry Nevins, Seattle, WA
Coordinator - Lake City Contra Dance

Eric Schedler, Bloomington, IN
Co-organizer - Weekly community contra dance, Bloomington Old-Time Music and Dance Group (BOTMDG)

Janine Smith, Glen Echo Park, Glen Echo, MD
Organizer - independent contra dance series


Weathering the Winter Together

November 1, 2021
An online discussion for organizers of music, dance, and song communities

As we prepare for another pandemic winter season, we know many of you are considering how to keep your groups safe and connected. So we’ve used this Web Chat to generate lots of ideas for keeping communities engaged during the coming months. We shared some suggestions from Affiliates and used breakout rooms to allow small groups to brainstorm further ideas. We also heard current news and perspectives from a public health professor, Dr. Kimbi Hagen, about how the pandemic is progressing.


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.

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.

We used the "transcript" function for the first time, which allowed participants to access subtitles during the Web Chat as needed. This feature also made it possible to provide the following written transcript of the entire Web Chat.

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.


Let’s Talk About Reentry: Working Together Now for a Strong Return to Dancing

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.


Supporting Song Communities Across the Continent

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.


Let’s Talk About Reentry: Recommendations and Q&A for Organizers

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

This exciting Web Chat connected 135 music, dance, and song organizers from far and wide! We’ve started a new online resource to share many of the creative ideas contributed by these communities. We invite all groups to submit entries describing your experiences to help us build these global connections!

Diversifying Income: Thinking Outside the Money Basket

February 12, 2020


Connecting Community Sing Organizers

October 16, 2019


Building Safe Dance Communities

July 11, 2019


Family/Community Dance Organizers Unite!

April 4, 2019


Increasing Youth Involvement

January 16, 2019


Creating a Thriving Open Band

September 20, 2018


Boosting AttenDANCE

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."

     
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