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It seems that the news is filled with nothing but stories about novel Coronavirus, known as COVID-19. Naturally, dancers are asking how this might affect the dance community, given that those who love to dance are in personal close contact with each other in social settings.

Note that this article, originally written March 5, 2020, will be updated frequently to stay current.

Update March 16: To ensure the safety of all our students, group classes are now cancelled until further notice. Private lessons will continue. We are working on developing online lesson plans, which should be available shortly.

Update March 13: Kinvillage Community Centre social dances are cancelled for the time being. Group classes are still going ahead. We are taking precautions such as sending home anyone who arrives unwell or has a cough, and disinfecting all surfaces that people touch such as door handles and sink handles. We will not partner with more than one dance partner at a time in group classes unless we wash our hands between each partner, and we are asking all students to maintain social separation between couples, and to wash their hands immediately after each class.

Update March 12: The US National Championships were canceled today, just two days before the start of the championship events. Canada’s health minister has ordered all large gatherings of 250 or more to be canceled. Delta Dance is prepared to cancel all group classes when authorities order such a course of action, but for now we are cautiously proceeding. Our group classes do not change partners during the class. We are issuing a strong warning for all participants to maintain the highest level of hygienic care. If you are elderly, or someone in a high risk group, you should avoid all group classes and social dancing at this time.

Update March 11: Seattle-based dance studios are now restricted to private lessons only due to the threat of COVID-19. Large studios in other parts of the US have also stopped group classes. The USA has also banned all direct flights from Europe in an effort to control the spread of the disease. UBC Gala Ball has been canceled, and we expect many other competitions to follow with similar cautions.

Update March 9: Some European competitions have been canceled, and the World Dance Council’s Annual General Meeting is not going to go ahead as a live event but will either be held electronically or postponed.

Generally, dancers at this point in time, at least in North America, seem to be fairly mature about the issue. According to articles in dance magazines and elsewhere, dancers who were interviewed about the threat are taking it in stride and avoiding panic. They are still going to practice, to social dances, to competitions, and to lessons.

There are good reasons not to panic. While over 100,000 have been infected, with 3,000 deaths worldwide, the flu has infected an estimated 36 million so far this season, with 18,000 deaths, according to the CDC. People are scared because this is new and there are so many unknowns. While this virus is more deadly than the flu, that percentage is still small. Influenza statistics show 0.1% mortality rate in the USA while Coronavirus has an overall rate that was initially under 2% but is now 3.4%. However, some regions show a death rate of just 0.4%, almost identical to the flu. Like the flu, underlying health conditions seem to be a key factor. More than 80% of victims are elderly, and more than 75% had underlying diseases present such as cardiovascular and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and, in some cases, tumor. Researchers have now linked high blood pressure as a possible influencing health condition. It is believed that this is connected to medications used for such conditions, such as those that act as ACE inhibitors, which may have an impact on how COVID-19 works. But that doesn’t mean you’re safe just because you’re young and healthy. You really don’t want to get this.

While companies and organizers of large events and governments are wisely taking precautions like postponing public gatherings in high-risk areas to help limit the spread of the disease, this thing isn’t going away anytime soon. We’re likely to see much higher levels of infection worldwide before things start to turn around, and it will be several months before things even start to get back to normal.

So the question comes up, “when should we stop dancing?” It’s a reasonable question. There’s no easy answer.

It wouldn’t make sense for absolutely everyone, everywhere, to stay permanently locked in their homes until a vaccine comes around sometime next year. People still need to shop, serve customers, manufacture goods, prepare meals in restaurants, deliver pizzas, pump gas, and activities such as going to the gym. On the other hand, dancing involves direct contact in close association with others. If you stop dancing, are you expected to stay away from the ballroom for two weeks? A month? The rest of this year?

If you are at a higher than normal risk because of your health or immune system, especially in relation to lung health, then you should avoid the ballroom. In high-risk areas all public gatherings should be minimized and that includes ballroom dancing. But in other areas, and for those who don’t have particular health concerns, there’s no reason to stay home. Instead, the idea is to be cautious and more diligent in managing our behavior.

We thought it might be helpful to share a few insights to help dancers who decide to stay active.

Self-quarantine

First, we need to be even more willing to self-isolate ourselves than we used to be. It was always socially inappropriate to go out if you were sick. We all know that if you were clearly sick you stayed home. But we need to expand that idea a little more: If you aren’t feeling well in any way at all, even a sore throat or runny nose, just stay home. The more steps each of us is willing to take to support the community, the safer our entire community of dancers becomes.

If you’ve traveled to any of the key areas affected by the virus, especially China, Iran, or Italy, stay out of all social settings for two weeks to ensure that you don’t pass anything along during the incubation period.

If you aren’t feeling well in any way at all, even a sore throat, just stay home.

Personal hygiene

Make sure to wash your hands after every lesson or dance event. Dance teachers are used to washing our hands after every lesson, but to many dancers this is a new discipline they may not have really thought about before. Clean thoroughly for 20 seconds while ensuring that soap or sanitizer is firmly spread around all hand surfaces.

The World Health Organization does not recommend masks for those who are healthy, as they should be reserved for people with symptoms of cough and fever and for health care workers.

This virus is passed along through droplets. It cannot be spread through the air unless there are droplets in the air due to something like a sneeze. So we don’t need to panic.

The virus is envelope-based. This means that alcohol-based sanitizers are especially effective against it, as they quickly break down the envelope containing the virus itself. Since these sanitizers are getting hard to come by, use soap and water as much as possible. You can make your own sanitizer by mixing 2/3 rubbing alcohol with 1/3 hand soap, ideally with a skin softener included in the ingredients.

Don’t touch your face

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to keep yourself safe is to stop touching your face. People typically touch their face 90 times or more each day without even realizing it.

One health spokesperson in the USA gave an official media statement urging people not to touch their faces, and immediately after talking about it she licked her finger to turn the page of her papers.

Most of us are unaware of just how often we may be touching our face. I began to pay attention to my own habits and was shocked. From cradling my chin in my hand, to scratching an itch on the side of my nose, to scraping away a bit of sleepy dust in the corner of my eye, I found myself touching my face far more often than I realized. Since that discovery I’ve made a conscious effort to keep my hands away from my face.

COVID-19 specifically targets the lungs. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells. This means it infects you through pathways that lead to the lungs, such as your nose and mouth. It cannot infect you through simple skin contact. But skin contact to the face can lead directly to the lungs.

There could potentially be droplets containing the virus on surfaces you touch, and these can be anywhere. So just get into a good habit of not touching your face and you’ll be well ahead of the risk.

Clean your phone

Another surface that is at exceptionally high risk is the ubiquitous mobile phone. We touch other surfaces and then our phones, so this is an obvious source of potential contamination.

Most modern phones are water resistant. If yours falls into that category, make an effort to thoroughly clean your phone with soap and water every time you wash your hands.

You may also consider getting a UV phone sanitizer. These are boxes that bathe your phone with germ-killing UV light. I haven’t seen any studies to know how effective UV light might be against Coronavirus, but I put my phone into the sanitizer a number of times every day. It doesn’t harm the phone and takes no extra effort.

Be alert

If you see others who seem to have a fever, dry cough, or other symptoms, don’t be afraid to call them out on it. We need to make it socially unacceptable to be in public with any kind of cold symptom until this thing is completely over. If it seems perhaps harsh to hold people accountable, then so be it. We have to do this for the good of the entire community. Having said that, we shouldn’t panic because someone sneezes or coughs. There are lots of reasons for things like that which have nothing to do with being sick, so we need to keep a balanced view.

Not everyone behaves responsibly. We can help keep each other accountable through gentle but vigilant social pressure.

Even if they are responsible, not everyone understands the potential gravity of their symptoms. The Iranian deputy health minister made a public announcement dismissing the impact of the Coronavirus while mopping his brow due to a fever. A few days later he tested positive for the very disease he had claimed was a non-issue.

Delta Dance is staying alert to this fluid situation and watching developments closely. If we feel there’s a need to cancel classes we’ll let our dance community know. Until then, focus on your own self-quarantine efforts, wash your hands immediately after any public contact, and stop touching your face, and you should be able to keep dancing without a lot of concern.

Author George Pytlik

Before turning pro, George achieved impressive results as an amateur competitor, holding the Senior (30+) Latin championship in BC, Canada for 7 consecutive years with his wife Wendy. The couple twice achieved a top-3 Canadian ranking in Senior Latin as well as a 3rd place Canadian ranking in 30+ Ten Dance. Today, George and Wendy are professional teachers with a vision of growing a strong dance community in Delta near Vancouver, BC.

More posts by George Pytlik

Join the discussion One Comment

  • David Stumpo says:

    Nicely done George.

    I think most dancers understand the basics of how to protect themselves and handle this situation. During our travel here in California, we have seen a little decline in the social dance and lesson attendance. However, for the most part, everyone is playing by the rules of good habits. Lot’s of hand washing, no one with flu or cold symptoms around, and simply not going into a panic.

    I read a piece today about how to avoid touching your face. They said, think about handling hot peppers and then putting your contact lens in. Ouch! You wouldn’t dare do it……so it gets us to think a little before we act.

    See you in April.

    Dave

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