Balancing safety with community impatience online talk

Now we’re opening up in Sydney, I’m seeing an (understandable) impatience to ‘return to normal dancing’ that has some problems. People pushing to social dance in public bars, talk that normalises dancing, misreading public health guidelines in ways that support their POV. After all, to _have_ social dancing, individuals need dance partners. As many as possible.
A consequence of this public talk has been an increasing ‘normalising’ of the idea that it’s fine to ‘return to normal’ dancing. If enough people are talking about whether the band is playing at x venue, or what time doors open at y venue, the more marginalised questions like ‘is it _safe_ to dance at all?’ become.
A big challenge for fb group moderators has been dealing with these complex social and medical issues while themselves under covid stress. It’s hard to parse the govt’s covidsafe info and public health restrictions, it’s even harder to do that _and_ juggle your own worries about safety, the increasing frustrations and arguments of other people, _and_ a year of shitty stress. Tensions are high, and there’s no clear model for handling these issues.
Or is there?

This is a fascinating article about the role of internet discussion boards in the gay community during the AIDS crisis. There’s a chunk about how these were moderated to prevent the spread of misinformation, and to encourage collaboration.

Still no touchy

Can we social dance YET?!
I am not an epidemiologist or the boss of covid. BUT. I have been keeping an eye out.

The rules have changed (as of Monday 7th Dec), and yes, we can dance! But still:

NO TOUCHY.

It totally sucks, but not as much as dying of covid or killing your nanna with the rona! Be strong, my friends – it won’t be long now, as long as we DON’T have an outbreak!

The rules are:
DANCE FLOORS (nightclubs, venues, etc)
1 person per 4 square metres
maximum of 50 people on indoor dance floors, or 500 people outdoors.
VENUES
1 person per 2 square metres IF there are more than 25 people in the venue (no density rules for <25 people) kiddies count as people! But can we touch one other person who is our ONLY dance partner and also in our bubble, with NO partner swapping? The NSW gov rules say NO TOUCHY for public events, but it's not entirely clear. Source

Note RE this photo: it’s 4m SQUARE metres per ibis, not 4m between each bin chicken.
So if 3 ibis want to dance, the dance floor/bin must be 12 square metres!

What about solo jazz classes in Sydney?

It’s still very high risk, because:

  • we’re still very close to each other (we need a lot more space than other activities)
  • the puffing and huffing spreads more respiratory droplets than normal breathing
  • we spend more time indoors together (two risk factors)
  • you have to clean up the space before and after the class, which is a lot of work
  • you need to have staff to manage crowding and lines

…and so on. This is why the actual _class_ is high risk. All this, and then the business has to handle contact tracing and other covidsafe regulations. The teaching model that was happening before covid barely (if ever) managed to handle insurance and other safety stuff. This added layer of work is too much for most dance businesses.

But in addition, the businesses that ran classes before have all been devastated by the shutdowns. No support from the government means businesses have failed or had to close down. Teachers have had to look for other work. So the _businesses_ have had to pause.

There’s no money to fund class expenses: advertising, insurance, rent/room hire, etc etc. All dance classes take a financial risk on this stuff, and then if numbers aren’t solid, they make a loss. Solo jazz has always been a higher financial risk because it doesn’t attract as many students as lindy hop.
I’ve run a dance business, and taught for my own business and others. Including the first weekly solo jazz class in Australia (brag! brag!). At this stage the safety issues of covid are a big deterrent, but it’s all the other administrative issues that are the real killer. We don’t make much money from single classes; to make money you have to run a bunch of classes and/or big classes. That’s not going to happen during this moment.

But hold on. We need a vaccine, and we need 100% take up, before we start teaching classes safely.

Things you can do to get lindy hop happening again:

  • Hassle your local MP to get arts bailout packages for small businesses like dance schools;
  • Make sure you and your family and all your friends are ready to get vaccinated, and then get vaccinated. If you’ve got anti-vaxer friends, or an anti-vaxer yourself, you’re a big health risk for all of us;
  • Don’t spread misinformation about covid (because that leads to outbreaks which slows things down again);
  • Support teachers, DJs, and other dance professionals who are working online: always pay for classes (even if they don’t ask for money), share and recommend good classes and organisations, drop supportive notes to people who are doing this work;
  • Encourage support for local venues where people run classes: independent venues (like our beloved Ruby’s), bars where live jazz lived (because it’s another important part of the lindy hop ecosystem).

aerosol v droplet transmission

tldr;
1) Keep your goobs at home with you.
2) Don’t visit other people, or invite them (and their goobs) to your indoor gathering.
3) Stay 1.5m away from other humans.
4) NO TOUCHY (don’t touch your face, don’t touch your mask, don’t touch other people).

Masks
If you do wear a mask, you’re going to need to be five times as careful with these things:
– Don’t touch your freaking face (NO TOUCHY)
– Wash your hands like a raccoon (ie properly, and before you want to touch anything else)
– Learn how to put your mask on and off properly, and when you’re wearing it. NO TOUCHY. Don’t touch your mask.

treat the rona like glitter.
aerosol vs droplets.
Why wear a mask?
If it’s in your local community (your workplace, your household), masks can help you stop spreading it around.
If it’s not there yet, washing your hands, distancing, staying away from people is the BEST thing you can do.

Covid is spread by respiratory droplets. It lives in the gooby wetness inside your lovely warm, wet body.
When you breathe, cough, sneeze, sing, shout, snort, laugh, goobs of liquid come out of your big face holes (nose, mouth), and the teeny tiny virus comes out in it. Goobs can travel about 1.5m. More if you put some effort into it.

The virus travels around with you inside your body, visiting your friends and going shopping, patting puppers and laughing at jokes. Once you spit it out, the virus dies after a few hours (like, 24 hours or more). But in those hours it makes friends with other people and gets into their warm, wet bodies.

The point of a mask is to mop up the nose and mouth goobs that come out of your face. They get stuck in the mask. Then you throw the mask in the bin (CAREFULLY) or you wash it (CAREFULLY).
Your mask has to fit well so it can’t ‘leak’ goobs (coughs, sneezes, whuffing big sighs) out the side or bottom.

If you touch your mask that’s got goobs on it (even goobs you can’t feel), the goobs are on your skin. Then you touch a friend and get goobs on them. Or you touch a door knob and put goobs on it.
(Rule no.1: NO TOUCHY)

Masks don’t stop you _getting_ viruses, they stop you _giving_ viruses.

The biggest challenge with masks, is that most people don’t wear them properly, have them properly fitted, or put them on/off properly. In fact, there’s some speculation that mask wearing results in people touching their faces _more_ than usual.

Workplaces are where COVID19 is spreading

Workplaces are where COVID is spreading in Australia. Not at the park or in the shops.
But in meat packing plants, aged care homes. Places where the pay is bad, and the work is hard. And the industry is not properly regulated.

If you really do want to get angry about covid, get really angry about:
– Jobs shifting from permanent full time to casual (removing workers’ access to sick days and the ability to take time off when they’re sick);
– The price of childcare (that forces women to work excessive hours just to pay the bills);
– Wage theft (where bosses don’t pay workers their full pay);
– The privatisation of public services like aged care facilities.

All these things put vulnerable workers (people on low incomes in jobs they could lose with no notice) at risk. They have to go to work because they’re desperate for money. Even if they’re sick. Even if their boss won’t let them distance properly, wash properly, or wear masks.

These workers often have more than one job. So they double their risks as they enter two workplaces. And they have dependent families (parents, grandparents, children).

And a note: you can bet your bottom dollar that that shirt you bought at Gorman or those socks you bought at Kmart weren’t manufactured in safe factories.

mask rage?

Australians*: please don’t get your rage on about people not wearing masks. I know you’re afraid. But the people who will suffer most from aggressive mask policing are not random white people at Bunnings. It will be the poor and homeless, Blak kids and migrant workers.

If you feel the urge to rantpost about masks, have a look at this great image, and allow yourself a moment to let the rage leak out like a long, squeaky fart.

And remember to wash your hands, not touch your face, and keep 2m between you and other people.

*same for you too, probably USA people. And also Black Lives Matter.

If we talk about Bunnings woman not wearing a mask, we’re not talking about working conditions for Bunnings staff.

Masks can’t hurt

Tl;dr Masks can’t hurt. Wear them. But prioritise hand washing, not touching your face, and keeping distance from others.
Unless you’re in the US where shit is out of control. Then wear a mask.

Another of Daniel’s great pieces. Again, the unsafe workplaces of ‘essential workers’ are big contributors to transmission. Rather than focussing on individual responsibility and blame (fines for nonmasking), we need to address workplace safety and equitable wages. If your first (unsafe) job pays too little to feed your family, you’ll get another unsafe job, and double down on your risk.

And can we interrogate the phrase ‘essential work’? If it’s so essential, why is it paid so poorly? The phrase is code for forcing vulnerable people into unsafe work: you _have_ to do it; it’s essential.
But of course, it’s the work that’s considered essential, not the people.

The danger posed by the mask discourse is distraction. A distraction from what we already know, with certainty, about the virus and how it is passed on. From the drivers of this new outbreak, which are still workplaces, social events and family gatherings, most of which involve close and prolonged contact and are not covered by the mask mandate. From what works to control outbreaks, including aggressive contact tracing, testing and isolation. From banning the events and settings where transmission can occur. From dealing with huge gaps in lockdown arrangements that exempt essential workers, even though precarious work arrangements caused this second wave. And from the trust in our public health experts that characterised our early response.