Outdoor dancing is likely very safe

by jefftkjefftk1 min read11th Oct 20215 comments


Personal Blog

After the spontaneous contra dance at Porchfest, I'm helping organize another one. I wanted to get a better sense of how much covid risk an attendee would be taking, so I ran some numbers on microcovid. If everyone is masked and vaccinated, I count ~2.2 microcovids:

  • ~1.7 from your partner. While your partner is not the only person your head gets close to, you're this close to at most one person at a time, so for simplicity assume its your current partner.
  • ~0.2 from your neighbors and next/previous neighbors.
  • ~0.2 from your next/previous hands fours.
  • ~0.08 from the hands fours one farther away.

If you have multiple lines close together, you could ~double these numbers. Other social dances are likely ~half as risky.

This is a very low level of risk: about 1% of a cautious risk budget of 200 microcovids/week (1% risk of covid/year).

I wish I'd run these numbers sooner: this is probably our last chance for an outdoor dance in Boston before spring.

An outdoor dance in October 2013

We may end up dancing indoors this winter. Over the next few months I think our communities are likely to move away from treating covid as something where we have a duty to make substantial sacrifices to limit spread. Once everyone is vaccinated who wants to be, including boosters and approving the vaccine for kids, I think people will view the tradeoffs very differently.

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How heavily do you think people breathe while doing the sorts of dancing you describe, and does that impact whether it's appropriate to model the scenario as "silent"?

It's not much more vigorous than walking? Like, I wouldn't need to be opening my mouth to get in additional air.

Even if you treat it as "talking", though, it's still only ~10 microcovid.

I always model as "loud talking" when doing assessments for contact improv -- back in the before times, that would be accurate, but I've found that everyone is pretty tentative right now, and "vigorous walking" is probably closer to the baseline.

Thanks folks. Asking for my own benefit as someone who dances fusion and has been attending some (small, masked, vaccinated) indoor events lately. I think microfusion is probably somewhere between silent and normal and regular fusion is probably between normal and loud. (Trying to balance heavier/more frequent breathing with the fact that people are literally speaking, not talking.)

I did a similar analysis for outdoor Contact Improv here in Toronto over the summer. We had low covid rates over the summer and it came out remarkably low-risk; because the jam is run and organized by Reason d'etre, a local dance company, Kathleen, the organizer, ended up putting a huge amount of time, effort and money into covid protocols; sanitizers; interesting props that people could use to do distanced CI and screening, at least in part to stay on the happy side of the provincial regs.

Indoor jams are tentatively restarting; I'm still not sure quite what my policy w/r/t those should be; there's a double-vax requirement + rapid testing prior to start, if cases numbers are > 300/day. One way I've tried modelling this is 10 people near-by for 10 minutes (collapsing a set of serial dances into a concurrent process); indoors, masked, this evals to about 28 microcovids, here.. I'm inclined to attend, although I don't think my GF is super comfortable with it yet.

Another, non-dance related thing that I wish I'd modeled months earlier is going to the dentist! Felt super transgressive, but surprisingly safe, given it's really only one person near you. I was also really pleasantly surprised by the office's setup: they'd put up plastic sheeting to partition the workrooms from each other, and had set up large air purifiers in each work room. Clear evidence of an actual transmission model on display.