BIDA, the contra dance that I help organize, has now had two dances since resuming. These have been with masks, proof of vaccination, boosters if eligible, email addresses for contact tracing, and as much ventilation as possible, which isn't that much in our hall. There were a few surprises for us, so I wanted to write up a bit about how it went.

  • Overall, it's been really good. People are happy to see each other and happy to be dancing again.

  • Attendance has been much higher than before the pandemic (~215 vs ~130), with lots of people who used to attend occasionally. I expect this will fall off as people return to thinking of dances as something they can go to whenever they want, and when other area dances restart.

  • With checking proof of vaccination and getting people to put down their emails for contact tracing, we expected to need additional people at the door, but even with three people there was sometimes a line. This is a lot slower than just collecting money.

  • No one has informed us that they were infectious at the dance, or that they think they got sick at a dance. I'm not sure when it would make sense to stop collecting emails for contact tracing; maybe when we expect that attending a dance is only a small portion of someone's weekly exposure and that most other sources aren't contact tracing?

  • We are having people write their emails on paper, and if someone did tell us they were infectious it would be a daunting amount of work to email everyone: bad handwriting, lots of addresses. On the other hand, we could split this among the board, so it isn't that much per person.

  • We are including a place on the email sheet where you can mark if you would like to be added to our mailing list. I feel a bit conflicted about this, for the general reason that you shouldn't mix security/health with promotion, but people don't seem to mind.

  • We expected that callers would need to start with easier dances, because after two years people might be a bit rusty, but it was really the opposite: the balance of experience in the hall is really shifted toward long-time dancers.

  • At our first dance about 2% of people hadn't noticed that we would be requiring boosters for people who were eligible, and we did have to turn a few people away. This was really hard. If you are organizing a dance you should talk in advance with your co-organizers about whether you will make exceptions and have someone prepared to be bad cop. One thing to consider is having rapid tests available (potentially for purchase) and including those in an exception process.

  • Several dancers asked if they could bring air purifiers, which we were happy to have. In retrospect, especially given how little we can ventilate this hall, putting out a call for people to bring them could've made sense?

  • People vary a lot with how much they mind dancing in masks. Personally, while the mask is a bit annoying I strongly prefer dancing with a mask to not dancing. I'm not sure yet how we should decide when to stop requiring them, and am open to suggestions!

  • We aren't doing snacks at the break or allowing eating in the hall, but we're still putting out water. The marginal harm of dehydration from making access to water less convenient is probably higher than the covid impact. We're not seeing people hanging out with their masks off while drinking water; we have a good culture of taking a sip and then putting their mask back. (If we're going to require masking I want us to be doing it properly.)

  • There was some concern in advance that masks would get wet (sweaty) and not be useful, and we made sure to have a large supply of free masks (both surgical-style and N95). This didn't seem to be much of an issue, and not very many people wanted our masks.

  • We didn't have any issues with people not being willing to wear masks, or not wearing them properly. We lined up volunteers in advance who were prepared to talk to people not properly wearing masks, if necessary.

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Glad to hear you've been able to bring back events! As a fusion dancer in SF, I know how amazing it has been to have partner dance in my life again.

Couple thoughts:

  • why not have the sign-in form (and email collection) be on a spreadsheet on a tablet or something, to avoid the burden of having to transcribe?
  • check out this group for how other organizers are navigating questions around masking and others https://www.facebook.com/groups/158671312715141/?ref=share. It's led by a COVID researcher/MD who is also a dance organizer

Yup! After several fb comments suggesting this we'll do primarily electronic emails (paper option) in the future

My reaction to this title: I didn't know there even existed an emulation of Ajeya Cotra that you could try restarting.

Good to hear the event went smoothly, and thanks for sharing your experience! 

I'm not sure yet how we should decide when to stop requiring [masks], and am open to suggestions!

How about organizing an event without masks (and/or other COVID measures)? Allow people to choose whether to go the maskless/measureless event or the masked/'protected' event (or both!). Compare attendance, and change the frequency of each category of events depending on that. Perhaps both events are roughly evenly popular, perhaps maskless is much more popular, perhaps 'protected' is much more popular. If you do this experiment, let me know the results! 

I wouldn't be excited about us organizing anything that would split the community or cause conflict, and I think that approach would, unfortunately.