Note from TDG: this is the most current information to date from physician Dr. Hsu. The situation is changing rapidly. Do not panic – that helps no one – but please consider this as a serious issue and re-evaluate whether social dancing is really a good idea right now.
This week has vastly changed the nature of the Coronavirus epidemic. I feel compelled to write again now because we now have a lot more information about the virus and its spread. I no longer believe that recommendations made in my previous post are comprehensive enough at this time.
TLDR: Stop all social dancing. Now.
The reality of containment
Containment is no longer possible in North America and Europe. Asking people with symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) to stay home is not enough. The virus is spread by people who show no symptoms. Every week, without additional measures, COVID-19 cases increase by a factor of 10, so from 1, to 10, to 100, to 1000, to 10000 (see table at the end for case data in Italy, France and Spain).
How likely they are to spread the infection depends on how close they get to people around them and how many people they are exposed to. In social dancing, particularly at large congresses, it is becoming increasingly likely that someone attending will have coronavirus in the incubation period. These people WILL be in close proximity with many, many people, for many hours. In that scenario, they are not going to infect just two or three people; they are going to infect many.
For those who are curious about asymptomatic transmission:
Studies of COVID-19 transmission even from January have shown that someone without symptoms, can transmit the disease (footnote 1). Recent preliminary data analysis showed that half of people infected from two examined clusters were infected before any symptoms were observed. Likewise, 10% of cases detected on the Diamond Princess cruise, had no symptoms when they were diagnosed (footnote 3).
The future we want to avoid
Every area is, or will soon be, an area with localized transmission. We must slow down the spread of the disease. In short, social distancing is the most effective public health measure right now for slowing the spread of coronavirus. If we don’t, we run the risk of overwhelming our healthcare system. This graph below sums it up.
Health system overload
Even if COVID-19 ends up “just” 5-10% deadlier than the flu, with around 15-20% of people who get it needing hospitalization and no immunity globally our health care systems will quickly be overwhelmed. People who get sick enough to need hospitalization will require it for several weeks.
What does an overwhelmed healthcare system look like? It looks like:
- no elective surgeries (no knee or hip replacements),
- no clinic appointments for chronic diseases like heart disease or diabetes,
- delayed chemotherapy treatments,
- cancelled organ transplants
- No care for strokes, car accidents, or any of the other things that regular comes through emergency department
It also looks like more people are dying than there are breathing machines to sustain. This is not fear mongering, it’s the current reality in several places in the world.
For the love of community
If you are reading this, I imagine you love social dancing. I imagine one of the many reasons you love social dancing is because of the community and sense of connection that comes with it. This is an opportunity for you to channel that inner love for connection and community and use it to save lives through social distancing.
Yes, most people who get the virus will be fine and experience mild symptoms. However, young, healthy people serve as vectors of transmission to people in the population most vulnerable to adverse health outcomes (aka. Grandma and Grandpa). And if you ask, you may realize that your dance community itself is not as young or as free from chronic health conditions as you thought.
Social distancing will mean no social dancing for a while. It’s asking for a small (and in some cases major) individual inconvenience for the greater societal benefit. The risk of spreading coronavirus through social dancing, particularly at large congresses, is high. There are already large social dancing events being cancelled throughout the world, whether out of an organizer’s concern for public health or mandated by governments.
Note from TDG: Our Zouk community in Toronto has made the decision to suspend all socials, classes, and community events. While our congress is too far out to make a call yet, we are actively planning for best and worst case scenarios. I encourage all social dance communities to seriously consider whether it is in their community’s best interests to continue hosting events, socials, or classes. If you have a major event in April, plan to cancel. If your event is in May or June (or even beyond), be alert to current trends and be prepared to cancel if necessary.
I hope I can appeal to your inner conscience and urge you to think of the organizers and artists for these events. They certainly did not plan for a pandemic to happen during their event. Their decision to cancel should be applauded as a notable contribution to public and community health – the same way we are applauding decisions made by numerous governments, educational institutions, and private organizations.
Please treat them with kindness and understanding. They will incur irrecuperable costs for cancellation. Depending on the size of the event, that can easily run in the 5 to 6 figures. Please accept whatever they can offer to you as compensation with grace, and trust that they did the best they can. Events won’t all have the same compensation, as different organizations are in different financial realities. Trust and compassion for one another is how we will get through this.
Staying calm – with precautions
I still believe one thing I wrote previously: stay calm, go on with your life, take extra hygiene precautions, and – for now – send virtual hugs to your dance partners. Practice social distancing instead of social dancing. Be kind to each other; dance will be there after corona-winter.
I would like to share with you the ending remarks of Dr. Tedros, the head of the World Health Organization, from his March 9 briefing:
“Let hope be the antidote to fear.
Let solidarity be the antidote to blame.
Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat.
I thank you.”
Note from TDG: Please don’t go hoarding toilet paper and sanitizer – or stop sleeping out of fear. The reason not to social dance is because it is a high-risk activity where it is extremely difficult to mitigate the risks. And, currently, we can help avoid worst-case-scenario by sacrificing our passion until our health systems get through the worst of it. Let’s do that – it’s a tangible action we can do in place of panicking.
Case Data from Italy, Spain, and France:
|February 27, 2020||March 5, 2020||March 12, 2020|
Data sourced from https://www.worldometers.info/
1 – Rothe C, Schunk M, Sothmann P et al. Transmission of 2019-nCoV infection from an asymptomatic contact in Germany. New England Journal Medicine. 2020; (published online Jan 30.)
2 – Tapiwa Ganyani, Cecile Kremer, Dongxuan Chen, Andrea Torneri, Christel Faes, Jacco Wallinga, Niel Hens Estimating the generation interval for COVID-19 based on symptom onset data. medRxiv 2020.03.05.20031815; doi
3 – Wilder-Smith, J Chiew, VJ Lee. Can we contain the COVID-19 outbreak with the same measures as for SARS? The Lancet Infectious Disease (published online March 5)