Dancing With Mike

Safe Steps to Return to Dancing

Safe Steps to Dance Again

By Mike Seastrom

June 2020

Many have wondered aloud just how we’ll be able to start square dancing safely again without catching a virus or developing any other health complications. Most of us miss long-time friends and acquaintances and can’t wait to get back together again and dance.

With restaurants, health offices, and other establishments opening in this new era, we have gotten the chance to see some of the changes taking place to keep us all safe and healthy. We have been taking part in these new protocols and have experienced being questioned about our well-being and whether we’ve traveled certain places. We have had our temperatures taken with touchless thermometers. We have stood in lines where there is a physical distance of at least 6 feet to anyone around us. We have regularly worn masks, washed our hands for at least 20 seconds, and used hand sanitizers like we’ve never done in our entire lives.

Let’s look at some of these steps and see if we can use these same precautions to keep each other safe and healthy, but still enjoy our dance. Can we really incorporate these steps at a square dance to protect everyone’s health?

Step #1 is risk assessment. We can put someone at the front door of our halls and go through questions with each attendee and even take their temperature, but risk assessment in square dancing, in my opinion, is the job of each person that attends a dance event! If you have or recently have had a temperature, had frequent headaches, a dry cough, breathing issues, and/or just not felt well, please stay home. We must change our ways about this. The new normal in a hands-on activity is don’t come if you could possibly pass on a cold, flu, or any other communicable malady.

If you live or work with anyone who is or has been sick, consider staying home or if you feel fine, wear a mask, wash your hands, and/or use a hand sanitizer. Dancers in Japan, Taiwan, and other places have been doing this for years and it works. It is respectful and it enhances the safety of others. Wearing a mask is not about you, it’s about showing respect for your fellow dancers.

Step #2 is physical distancing. If we think about line dancing and round dancing, we can see that physical distancing from other dancers, except for our partner in a round dance, is easy to do. Square dancing is a different animal.

We dance as a team and there is always close physical contact and a lack of space between us in a square. There is just no way that we can stay six feet apart. That is why risk assessment (Step #1) is so important, and we are relying on every participant to be honest, thoroughly assess their own health, and again, show respect for your fellow dancers!

Step #3 is wearing a mask or suitable face covering. Wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the common cold, and our yearly flu. COVID-19 is spread by aerosol droplets. If you take that out of the equation, you can significantly reduce the spread of colds, flu, and this virus. Other countries have shown this over the years and those ahead of us in the curve of this virus, have also been able to significantly reduce the spread with this simple step.

If you live in an area where there are no cases, Step #1 is easy and Step #2 and #3 may not be necessary, but the club/organization holding the event can and should set and enforce the requirements for that event. If you personally have underlying health issues, consider doing Steps 2 and 3 as a precaution and do it without apologizing. Your steps again are most importantly showing respect for others.

Washing your hands is Step #4 and is extremely important to do for a minimum of 20 seconds with any good soap. Using an approved hand sanitizer after each tip is an effective way to stay healthy too. The CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Those that organize each event should have several stations around the hall where a good hand sanitizer is available and have masks to dispense. Clubs can make wearing a mask mandatory to all those attending if they so choose.

What about food? At this time and for the foreseeable future, it might be best to not have food, or to at least have it only in commercially sealed individual packages. It is also advisable to wash your hands before you eat. In many places in our dance world, dancers bring their own food, coffee, and beverages in their own containers. This is another way to keep our events safe.

Wearing gloves is not a magic shield and not a substitute for frequent hand washing and using hand sanitizing products as described above. Gloves become contaminated right away and cannot be washed or reused because they breakdown and begin to leak. Safely disposing gloves is also a chore and can spread germs if not done properly. Wearing gloves to dance, in my opinion, is not safe.

Sanitizing the locations where we dance should also be a consideration. Wiping down frequently touched surfaces such as tables, chairs, doorknobs, light switches, restroom toilets, faucets, sinks and other surfaces before, during, and after a dance with a suitable disinfectant is advisable and should be an important consideration to those running the event. Kitchens and their equipment are also an important area of disinfection if used. The CDC recommends using unexpired household bleach as an effective disinfectant when properly diluted in a solution of 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water. If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

Many of us have been “2 Couple Virtual Dancing” using a computer service like Zoom. We have been dancing in a 2-couple square where one couple is invisible. Sometimes the success of dancing like this depends heavily on how your “phantom couple” dances and how well you can keep track of them. We’ve been having a fun time with our new and experienced dancers. The best part is just seeing each other and catching up socially in a safe way.

As I write this column, we are now seeing two actual couples getting together and dancing in the same location with two couple squares. Many of us have been home and in isolation for eight weeks or more and have never even known anyone with the virus. We must remember not to become complacent, however, because anyone can be a carrier even though they are asymptomatic.

In the coming weeks there will be events held on the Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube formats where a full square can get together and dance. Depending on the reopening protocols in your area, this may be a great way to get back to dancing with your friends that have been isolated just like you. Push back the furniture in your house or use your patio and invite eight or more people and let the party begin while staying as safe as you can with others you know have the same goal.

This is unfamiliar territory we are exploring and as our halls open again or we start getting together with just small groups, we can all stay as safe and healthy as possible if we just use common sense and follow safe steps. Remember that kindness and consideration of others is key and please honor the wishes of your fellow dancers and their right to make their own decisions about where and when they feel comfortable returning to dance.

We are really looking forward to dancing and seeing everyone again!

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