Survey results: resuming dancing

In thinking about when and how to potentially resume dancing we decided to run a poll. We've previously found these very useful to get a sense of our community: we ran polls for switching to larks/ravens and marking the bathrooms as being for "everyone".  This time we opened with:

BIDA is looking at restarting dancing, and we're sending out this survey to get a sense of the range of views in our community. We're planning to share anonymized responses publicly, as we have with our past polls.

As a baseline, we are looking at limiting admission to people who are vaccinated to the fullest extent allowed, including boosters, and checking vaccine cards at admission.  We would also require dancers to wear well-fitting masks (providing free surgical masks as needed), collect email addresses to facilitate contact tracing, and ventilate to the extent that is possible.

Note that the city of Cambridge currently requires masks.

We posted the survey on our mailing list and FB page on Monday November 30th, and closed the survey one week later.  We received 161 responses, most of them in the first few days:

The first question was "What do you think about these proposed precautions?" and offered a choice of:

  • They're too much.
  • They're about right.
  • They're not enough.
  • No plausible combination of precautions would be enough.
  • Other: [fill in the blank]

In cases where people chose "Other" we grouped them with the closest option when possible. For example, someone wrote "If vaccines are required, requiring masks in addition seems like overkill", and we grouped that with "They're too much" in the charts below.

The second question was "Would you attend dances with these precautions?", offering Yes, No, and Other.  After manually categorizing the "Other" responses, we have:

To understand the interaction between how people view the precautions and whether they would attend, we can combine these into a single chart:

This shows that people who think the precautions are excessive are still generally interested in attending, while people who think they are insufficient are almost all not, which makes sense.  It also shows that many people, while thinking these are a reasonable set of precautions for a dance to take, are not sure that they would personally be ok attending.

We also asked "When you think it is safe to do so, how often do you anticipate attending our dances?":

  • About every time
  • About once a month
  • Every few months
  • A few times a year
  • Very occasionally
  • Other: [fill in the blank]

Weighting responses in proportion to their expected attendance, we can see that people who anticipate attending more frequently are moderately more happy with the proposed precautions:

We also offered several opportunities for people to give their views qualitatively: several questions offered "Other", we asked people what precautions they would like to see added/dropped, and we asked for general feedback.  Full responses are below, with redactions for anonymity.  In some cases we've added responses to questions or links to clarify references.

What do you think about these proposed precautions? [Other]
  • At this point I think contras are too in-your-face to be safe.
  • should also include consideration of case rates in Cambridge/Middlesex Co/MA
  • Should allow non vaccinated with negative test
  • Because of the new variant that came out [Omicron] I wouldn’t attend any dances at this time.
  • They seem mostly reasonable but I would also consider local case rates.
  • Good, but maybe we should limit the number of people attending as well.
  • Can we more explicit about ventilation, and what would constrain it? Think about limited admission? 
  • Place more importance on adequate ventilation (rather than just "to extent possible") and masks; less on vaccines, based on outbreaks in Provincetown last summer.
  • They're not enough *for me.* I think it's totally reasonable and responsible for you to do this, I just wouldn't go because of an immunocompromised family member.
  • I don't think boosters are necessary but everything else makes sense
  • Also want to know if you are going to have a maximum # of dancers [We are not currently planning on limiting attendance.]
  • If vaccines are required, requiring masks in addition seems like overkill. 
  • I think that this is sufficient, but would also consider rapid or PCR testing IN ADDITION TO the vaccination requirement. I would also like to see a specified threshold for eliminating the vaccination requirement if local case rates are low (I would not want to see it last indefinitely in the interest of inclusivity and equity) and for canceling dances or adding additional precautions if local case rates are very high. Finally, I would consider asking dancers not to travel from afar to attend.
  • If someone hasn’t hit the 6 month mark to receive their booster, would they be allowed to attend? I’m not sure about preventing someone to come who doesn’t have a booster yet because they haven’t reached the 6 month milestone. [Yes, we'd still consider that "vaccinated to the maximum extent allowed".]
  • Maybe also limit the total number of attendees per night (may require advance sign-up)
  • With boosters just recently becoming available. I would agree with vaccinated dancers but not quite yet with requiring boosters 
  • what's the proposal in terms of limiting capacity? will there be sign ups /reservations [This isn't something we're currently planning.]
Would you attend dances with these precautions? [Other]
  • Yes depending on my personal health & what’s going on health wise in the community. Probably goes w/o saying…
  • Probably.  It might depend on the current local case counts and my plans for the days  immediately following.  Sundays are actually a great day for dances, for me.
  • Maybe
  • I think these are the best measures possible; my personal comfort level will vary with local numbers & more info on the new variant
  • Not sure if a mask would restrict my breathing too much while dancing
  • Once there are vaccinations for 2-year-olds, yes
  • I would, once I am able to get a booster vaccine.  
  • I wouldn’t attend, sadly because of the variant that just came out
  • Maybe. If cases trend downward from where they are now, I would feel like dancing by March I expect. If the Omicron variant spreads locally and makes dancing riskier or the numbers don't go down after the end-of-year holidays, it would be some time after that.
  • I would attend with these precautions once my baby is fully vaccinated.
  • Right now, no. If number of daily cases and positivity rate drop to midsummer levels, probably yes.
  • Yes, assuming new variants don't mess it all up
  • I'm really not sure. Partly it's dealing with uncertainty of the variant of the week; partly seeing if my partner and I are on the same page.
  • I don’t know.
  •  Not until all members of my family can be vaccinated. Then, it would depend on infection rates, state of covid variants, etc. 
  • We need fewer cases. Better prevention and early treatment options, not just vaccines.
  • In the spring, yes. This winter, maybe not
  • Will dance when MA Covid Dashboard shows less than a hundred new cases a day and less than ten Covid deaths a day
  • It depends on how omicron evolves! Last week I would have said probably, once my kids are fully vaccinated…
  • I only go to Bida contras about 2-3 times a year, but I would attend at that frequency with these precautions.
  • I think I would come at least once, and see how well everyone's masks actually stayed all the way on. Probably my decision also depends on local case numbers.
  • Not currently, but possibly in spring
  • Depends what "to the fullest extent allowed" means; would not want to come unless everyone is actually vaccinated - in other words, if medical and/or religious exemptions are allowed [We would not allow medical or religious exemptions.  On the other hand, a 16yo with two shots would be allowed even without a booster because boosters haven't been opened to their age group yet.  We're not sure yet about how we'd handle kids under 5.]
  • Not sure 
  • Depends on the trajectory Omicron takes and the amount of breakthrough cases in MA
  • If there was a maximum number of people
  • I might play, but probably wouldn’t dance
  • I'd be less likely if masks are required
  • Whether that is enough precaution for us to be comfortable might depend on what the covid level is at the time and how good the ventilation is.
  • Maybe
  • I would probably attend on occasion, but I live far enough away (Western Massachusetts) I would not be a regular.
  • Depends on the variant situation. 
  • Maybe, depending on omicron and what is happening when dances resume.
  • Yes, once our kids can get vaccinated
  • Not sure. We are very careful. But we might have to live in these conditions for while. 
  • Not until our 4yo is vaccinated
  • I’m not a regular BIDA dancer. I do have concerns about the possible ventilation in that space. 
  • probably
  • Depends on case levels
  • I would be comfortable with those precautions. Anything less (including accepting negative tests in lieu of vaccinations) would mean I would not attend.
  • Maybe. At current level of community spread I am attending one event of similar size a week. So potentially attend depending on scheduling. 
  • maybe- hard to say right now with omicron.
  • Maybe. Would want to see how policies were being followed and how ventilated the hall is.
  • Depending on local rates, but that's theoretical anyways, since I don't live very close anymore 
What additional precautions would you like to see?
  • Number of dancers limit, precautions for band, minimum distancing between sets
  • Outdoor dancing, even if it means no winter dances.
  • Limiting capacity to 50-100 (starting small and possibly increasing over time); automatic cancellations tied to MA case rates (especially breakthrough rates); commitment/resources to enforcement of proper mask wearing (asking caller to remind periodically, organizers and possibly a few volunteers committing to asking for adjustment every time a nose is visible (publicly posted crowd pictures of the previous dance would help reassure me of this); not offering food/snacks (unsure if BIDA would do this anyway, I moved to the area during the pandemic); waiting until at least mid-January to let presumed holiday spike settle down and gather sufficient data on Omicron variant [The earliest date we're considering is Sunday January 16th]
  • I don’t think it’s safe to start up dances. In particular, I would be very curious about ventilation. I know a lot of venues don’t have proper ventilation. Another potential precaution would be limiting the number of attendees to a predefined #, and minimizing eating/drinking (anything that requires masks to be removed). Maybe making a specific designated area where water can be consumed and ensure it’s properly ventilated. Additionally, I would recommend limiting instances of shouting- only allow clapping after a set. 
  • Same-day/at-the-door testing
  • You say "well-fitting" but then talk about providing surgical masks. With fit-tested sealed N95s, it might be reasonable, though only if the seals hold with heavy breathing. The vast majority of masks will leak a lot when the wearer is exercising. Otherwise, throwing some numbers into shows an indoor dance as "very high risk" (assuming a 200 ╬╝covid weekly budget) even with regular N95s for everyone, and worse with cloth or surgical. [In microcovid's terminology we mean requiring a "multi-layer cloth mask with tight, secure fit" or better.   We don't think fit-testing is practical for this kind of event.]
  • Ventilation would help some, but it would need to be extremely powerful to cycle the air quickly enough, and it seems very unlikely that this is possible in the Masonic Lodge."
  • attendance cap, negative covid test required w/in 48 hrs prior to dance
  • Require kn95 or surgical masks. Rapid tests? Smaller groups. Outside when possible?
Which precautions would you like to see removed?
  • Checking vaccine cards at admission seems annoying; I would rather trust people.
  • wearing masks while dancing.  the first two dances this might work, but if you’re one of those people who doesn’t sit one out, the masks will get disgusting and make it extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant.  If we’re all vaccinated with open windows (which tends to happen anyway because it gets warm inside), then those who choose to participate are dancing at their own smaller risk, and those who never want to get covid ever can stay home.  Everyone has determined this virus is never going away, so the goal should be to just require vaccinations (and maybe testing) but not masking.
  • Requiring a booster shot as well as the initial two vaccinations 
  • All
  • booster shots
  • Masks
  • Booster shot
  • Masks. There's no way I will dance in a mask.
  • All of them.
  • everything above the legal minimum
  • Mask and booster shot requirements, to the maximum legally possible
Do you have any other feedback for us?
  • Thank you!
  • I'd love to see better-than-cloth-masks required - at least a surgical mask required.
  • Thanks for asking. I miss dancing!
  • Thanks for surveying. Looking forward to dancing again!
  • desperately want to start dancing again but don't feel it is safe in current environment
  • I am new and have not been to a social dance before, but I would like to go very much.
  • Please restart these!!  Salsa and other clubs have been open for months, to say nothing of bars and restaurants and schools. In other words, we’re not saving anyone by not dancing.
  • I don't know if this will work for me, but I hope it works for others.
  • I think these precautions would be sufficient for dancing, though with my schedule and interests, I am not likely to be a dancer as I would much rather play in the band, so I expect my attendance would be limited mostly to open bands nights, times when I might be in the hired band, or times when there is a family dance, if those were to resume (Would they? Are you going to conduct a separate survey for family dancers?) [Family dances would likely be after vaccination for ages 2-4 opens up, but we're open to suggestions.]
  • Maybe a limit on numbers?
  • Going into winter when cases are rising and the new variant is starting to circulate feels like the worst possible time to consider restarting indoor contra dances, even with precautions. I would definitely not want to be a part of potentially spreading the virus to a friend or family member of a dancer, let alone another dancer themselves. I truly hope that BIDA will prioritize the safety of the overall community (not just the dance community) and not return to dancing at this time or in the near future.
  • I know that BIDA is a safety-first organization so I trust that BIDA will restart when many factors of safety have been evaluated. Looking forward to the restart!
  • thank you for pushing for restarting finally
  • Any way to improve ventilation?
  • Thanks for sending out the survey! I'm really looking forward to the dances starting up again
  • Take digital temperatures at door? 
  • Thank you for asking. I hope to feel safe attending dances soon!
  • Return to dancing, but with strong precautions!
  • Cloth strips or bandanas instead of hand-to-hand contact might further reduce spread.
  • I'm unsure how comfortable strenuous/sweaty dancing will be in a mask, so I'd have to see how it goes
  • The guidelines as you describe them reflect what the Monterey (CA) contra dancers have been applying to their dancers, with the exception of boosters.  That is mostly because they restarted their dance series when the discussion and availability of boosters was just getting started.  Since resuming, their dances have been well-attended, and dancers have been supportive.  Also since resuming, at least one of the BACDS (SF Bay Area) dance series (Hayward) has resumed under the same guidelines as the counties that they are located in permit larger private gatherings.  Other series in northern California (Sacramento, NBCDS, Fresno) are resuming or considering resuming based on the above or slightly/somewhat different criteria; Fresno, for example, is holding its dances outdoors as long as weather will allow them to (but is not, as far as I know, enforce either vaccination checks or mask mandates).

    There is one other criteria that I don't see on your list that Monterey and the other NorCal/CenCal dances are tracking, and that is daily average new case counts.  Monterey tracks this consistently, and will suspend their series if Monterey County's daily new case rate reaches or exceeds 10 new cases per 100,000 people.  Locations such as Sacramento have not restarted largely because their daily new case rate is still above 10.  Some members of the Monterey community have expressed concern that some of the folks are traveling > 100-200 miles to come dance from counties such as Sacramento, Merced (where I live), and Kern, where daily new case rates are still well above 10/100k.
  • Good luck! Thanks for trying to get the ball rolling.
  • Ventilation is useful but having it warm enough for comfort is a higher priority for me, personally. As long as the heat can be on I'm happy.
  • I am not [name redacted]. For some reason her name appears instead of mine. Google keeps saying that my password is invalid whenever I try to switch accounts. I don't know why you are using Google anyway. The survey was sent to my email address, but doesn't have my email address on it. I would like to attend every time, but 1) The dances frequently conflict with concerts and 2) Dancing while wearing a mask is not great.
  • With the coming winter surge and mutations due to inadequate vaccination rates, my opinion is that live dances before the next warm season are irresponsible.
  • Good luck.
  • It depends a bit on how the omicron strain develops.  And I'd prefer to dance without masks as soon as that is possible.  Is there an alternative to actually carrying one's only vaccination card? [We would be happy to look at pictures or photocopies of cards; they don't have to be originals.  We expect most people will use their phones.]
  • I want to see that Massachusetts is making good progress on beating the virus before I resume dancing, even though I really want to resume dancing. Getting the deaths/day to single digits and new cases to  double digits or less for a few weeks is enough to convince me. Dancing has such powerful mental health and general health benefits for me that I may even risk attending if we’re borderline on the case and death numbers.
  • Very much looking forward to resume dancing.
  • My survey response would have been different a week ago, and may be different from two weeks from now, depending on how the new variant information evolves. 
  • This is such a hard call, thank you for working on it.
  • Card-checked vaccine mandates and mask wearing is the bare minimum I’d consider for indoor dancing in the next year, at least. I feel additional precautions are still wise, and I won’t feel safe indoor dancing until case counts are significantly lower than now (late November) and we have more data about the Omicron variant. Thank you for thinking carefully about what a safe return to dancing looks like in this in-between time, as we slowly transition (hopefully!) to living with COVID as an endemic disease!
  • Your dances are great, but since we live in New Hampshire, we only come down occasionally. So opinions from your local participants should carry much more weight than ours. But for what it's worth, my view is that dancing (or arguably any activity) will never be 100% safe (and never has been in the past, I'm sure flu and other maladies have been spread at dances in pre-covid days), so we will each have to decide what level of risk we are willing to endure, and accept that other people will have different perceptions of and susceptibilities to risk. So I fully support dance organizers making the best decisions they can with limited information, and I promise not to be a whiner if your decisions are different than what I myself might have decided.
  • assuming you are thinking about the 2x/month schedule; I know people will have to drink water, but would prefer that we not have the desserts/snacks
  • of course conditions could get worse
  • IMO, if we need to take so many precautions then it's probably a good indication that it's not time yet to restart dancing. 
  • I would be more likely to come if masks were not required, although I understand that they're required by the city.
  • I do think that at this point in the pandemic, it's reasonable to let people assess their own level of risk. I appreciate BIDA's efforts to "stop the spread", but unfortunately with the extent that every other aspect of life has reopened, whether premature or not, I'm not sure that keeping dances closed is making a meaningful dent anymore in our collective risk (vs individual).
  • The Omicron variant is at the moment a wild card variable that precludes any idea of dancing. Only when it's reasonably established that available vaccines are significantly effective against identified strains and the vast majority of people are vaccinated (greater than 85%) and the case and mortality rates approach that of influenza would I feel that dancing is a serious option. I think it's highly problematic if immuno-compromised people do not feel safe at a dance.
  • If the city still requires masks, it's not time yet to restart dances :(
  • Vaxxed and masks! Yes! That’s gotta be the way right now 
  • It’s not time yet, please wait.
  • I’ve missed contra so much-THANK YOU for endeavoring to bring it back!!
  • contra dances have started again in seattle as well as the bay so they can be real data examples to point to when restarting the dance
  • The Worcester contradance had rapid tests for people who failed to bring their vaccination card, as a further precaution.
  • I think we need to watch the Covid numbers carefully as we go into the cold weather/closed windows/holiday travel season.  Thanks for doing this survey.
  • Forget about masks! What about our GENDERFREE agenda?!
  • Covid is getting weaker with each variant. Pretty soon it’ll be no more deadly or contagious than the flu. However, I have an omicron feeling things won’t be returning to normal due to overzealous safety freaks.
  • Smart to require masks but I'll be more likely to attend when the mask requirement is gone.
  • Probably prudent to wait a month or two to see what happens with Omicron. 
  • Contradancing is great fun and I miss it but there is no responsible way to do it in a pandemic.  It is by definition a superspreader event.
  • No
  • Unfortunately, I feel clear it is not the right time to start up dancing again - as much as I'd like to.  With the new variant, plus heading into winter, and significantly increasing case levels throughout the state, we're not ready yet.  I look forward to a future with dancing once again though!!
  • So appreciate the careful thought you put into these dances pre COVID and during COVID
  • Glad you are inviting input.  
  • My attendance will depend on how much I'm going to be seeing vulnerable family in the timeframe of the dance, regardless of any precautions you might take. Not something you can control for, but I would be out Nov/Dec most likely depending on the dance timing.
  • thank you for soliciting feedback, I'd love to get back to contra dancing in the near future
  • Fully vaccinated and masked...a different venue as the Masonic Hall has absolutely no ventilation. Also limit numbers
  • I've really been missing dancing! Looking forward to it's return!
  • I would also imagine that you would monitor the Covid situation, adapt your policies as necessary, and notify attendees via email of any changes.  Thanks for the survey and I look forward to a return to dancing!
  • Providing and requiring people to wear N95 masks would help. (Among other benefits, they're harder to wear incorrectly)
  • If omicron turns out to make even the vaxed seriously sick, we'd want to wait for new vaccines. Mild symptoms... we'd risk it.
  • I really really really want to want this to happen, but given the holiday spike we're heading into, it seems premature. Would love to see some outdoor dances in the spring though!
  • Not a virus concern, but pandemic restrictions have increased my already present social anxiety, so I will feel more comfortable starting with couple dances and only doing contras with partners I know really well. From an organizational standpoint, I would appreciate extra waltzes and reminders that we're all in different emotional states!

    I appreciate everything y'all are doing!
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas will tell us more about transmission, the number of breakthrough cases, and the virulence of the new variant.  Early spring seems to be the earliest to think about contra dancing.
  • If you are proposing requiring boosters will someone at the door be checking dates to see if someone qualifies for a booster but hasn't gotten it yet? [Yes, we'll be checking cards at the door]

    I'm assuming well fitted masks to exclude bandanas and gaiters, but what about masks with vents that have been shown to vent particles into the air? [We would require people to cover mask vents, either with tape or a second mask.]

    Would attendance be capped to avoid overcrowding? [We're not currently planning on an attendance cap.]

  • Thanks for working on this!!


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