Dance Weekends: Tests not Masks

October 24th, 2022
contra, covid-19
I'm really excited that contra dance weekends are starting up again, and I just got back from playing with Amy and Audrey for the first time in three years. I'm also seeing a lot of weekends struggling with registration, however, and choosing between going ahead with a small crowd or cancelling.

Talking to people, in person and online, the big issue seems to be masking. Dancing in a mask is less fun and more tiring, and many people would rather stay home than dance for many hours masked. Weekends that don't require masks are not really a "control group" for ones that do, being different in a lot of ways, but that they are seeing strong attendance is evidence in this direction.

Most weekends that require masks don't require testing: I think it should be the other way around. Consider requiring daily testing, on arrival at the hall, instead of mandatory masking:

  • Rapid tests, like masks, are no longer scarce: you can buy as many of them as you want without worrying that there won't be enough for others. As long as you buy them in advance you don't need to worry that unavailability will keep you from being able to go forward with the event.

  • At $3.75/test shipped, the cost is low compared to what people are willing to pay to attend a dance weekend. This is a different tradeoff from evening dances, where requiring a test would require a more price-sensitive crowd to move from ~$10 to ~$14 (though possibly still worth it there!).

  • Another way the tradeoff is different from evening dances is that a weekend is much longer, so you're getting more hours of dancing per test.

  • While testing isn't 100% protective, neither is masking. I'm about ambivalent between being exposed to an N95-masked infected person vs a testing-negative infected person. And I'd rather be exposed to a testing-negative infected person than one wearing a surgical or, especially, cloth mask.

This isn't to say that you can't require both masks and testing if you think that level of precaution is warranted, but I think if you're going to have one of them be optional it makes much more sense for it to be masking.

I also think organizations that stop requiring masks should consider subsidizing elastomeric P100 respirators. These are very effective at protecting the wearer, likely more than having everyone in the room wear a high-filtration mask, and are generally more comfortable than disposable N95 masks.

In all of this I'm thinking about what sort of policy is best for people who want to attend the dance. Given how broader society has generally resumed with minimal precautions I don't think organizers need to be considering risk to non-attendees.

Comment via: facebook, lesswrong

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