Let’s Talk About Reentry, Part 5: News from Groups That Have Resumed In-person Events

August 12, 2021

There is strong interest amongst organizers 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.

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.

Full Transcript

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


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


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


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


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


Linda Henry

Bye bye, David.