Let’s Talk About Reentry, Part 4: Addressing Legal and Other Burning Questions

May 19, 2021

For this Web Chat, CDSS hired an attorney to address some of our broader community’s legal questions. Other panelists provided resources and considerations to help organizers chart their group’s course for safely emerging from the pandemic. Ultimately, each group needs to ask their own questions and find answers that are right for their 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.

Full Transcript

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


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


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.