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

May 3, 2022

An online discussion to support organizers of song groups

Two organizers offered firsthand experiences about keeping their song groups alive and well through the pandemic by hosting in-person and online singing events. Our third guest provided the latest COVID-19 news from her public health perspective, with suggestions especially pertinent for song group organizers. Q&A with all three guests included:

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

Full Transcript

Summary Keywords

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


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

Linda Henry 00:00

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

Nicki Perez 00:59

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

Linda Henry 01:48

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

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

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

Janice Hanson 04:56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda Henry 14:08

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

Janice Hanson 14:23

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

Linda Henry 14:46

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

Janice Hanson 14:54

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

Linda Henry 15:40

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

Steve Deering 16:23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda Henry 28:07

You’re fine.

Steve Deering 28:08

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

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

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

Linda Henry 31:38

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

Sarah Pilzer 32:02

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

Steve Deering 32:24

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

Sarah Pilzer 33:03

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

Steve Deering 33:09

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

Sarah Pilzer 33:38

Right? So no particularly comfortable masks.

Steve Deering 33:42

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

Sarah Pilzer 34:19

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

Janice Hanson 34:55

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

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

Sarah Pilzer 35:40

Yeah, thanks.

Steve Deering 35:41

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

Janice Hanson 36:13

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

Sarah Pilzer 36:39

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

Janice Hanson 37:05

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

Steve Deering 37:40

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

Sarah Pilzer 38:30

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

Steve Deering 39:07

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

Sarah Pilzer 40:01

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

Janice Hanson 40:10

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

Sarah Pilzer 40:17

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

Steve Deering 40:24

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

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

Janice Hanson 42:49

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

Sarah Pilzer 43:17

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

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

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

Janice Hanson 44:14

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

Steve Deering 44:45

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

Janice Hanson 45:48

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

Sarah Pilzer 46:03

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

Linda Henry 46:25

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

Kimbi Hagen 47:06

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda Henry 1:16:41

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

Sarah Pilzer 1:16:59

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

Kimbi Hagen 1:17:14

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

Sarah Pilzer 1:18:03

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

Kimbi Hagen 1:18:12

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

Sarah Pilzer 1:18:41

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

Kimbi Hagen 1:18:54

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

Sarah Pilzer 1:19:35

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

Kimbi Hagen 1:19:45

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

Sarah Pilzer 1:20:13

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

Kimbi Hagen 1:20:30

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

Kimbi Hagen 1:21:22

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

Sarah Pilzer 1:22:25

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

Kimbi Hagen 1:22:38

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

Linda Henry 1:23:45

Okay, I think we’ll wrap it up there.

Sarah Pilzer 1:23:49

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

Kimbi Hagen 1:23:54

Yeah, I always talk too much.

Linda Henry 1:23:56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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