See also: https://www.tangomarathons.com/tango-covid-19-resources/
The global pandemic is still ongoing. News, media, and especially social media is full of posts, opinions and articles, with varying usefulness to the reader. Confusion and fear are the most observed reactions, paired with uncertainty how to act, what to expect, and especially what will come.
This article is not trying to add facts about coronavirus, like R0, mortality rate, case numbers. Get these elsewhere.
There’s enough out there, and still not enough and truth. Go to official reputed sources (WHO), and not (only) social media. If you want to read something useful on Facebook, check out Marvin Hansen’s posts.
This article wants to highlight the impact of coronavirus on the tango community, and also propose and discuss options for the future after all returns to (the new) normal.
- Tango is danced more and more in a close embrace.
- the global tango community is highly networked and its dancers come from many different areas of life
- multiple international events are happening every weekend, bringing people from different countries together for an intense exchange
But: in the past years, I have seen, especially in international events, where dancers are present, engaged and interacting in close embraces –- event though they were ill. Usually with a common cold, or other infectious diseases. And never has there been a discussion about this. The common unspoken reaction was that of empathy and emotional support for the ill dancer who should “at least get some dances”.
It was OK to be ill,
and participate in dancing at international events.
A side story, outside of Tango: A 47-year-old man arrives in a hospital, infected with coronavirus showing severe symptoms. He is accepted into intensive care, and the officials start to investigate. 14 days before his arrival in the hospital he attended a carnival party (300 participants) in a small town in Germany. After the investigation starts, the other party guests are examined further and 60 of those guests have so far been tested positive for coronavirus, but most not showing severe symptoms or requiring intensive care.
This was around Feb 28 2020, and since then the investigators have identified an additional 150 contacts on top of the 300 participants of the event. They could not identify the source of the infection (so-called patient 0).
The officials then decided to put an additional 1000 people from that area under quarantine for 14 days.
The carnival event was around Feb 14th, and the first symptoms in people showed around Feb 28th. The people infected at that carnival have further infected people in the greater area, and as of today, there are more than 180 (3 times!) known cases. There is systematic testing only of cases with symptoms, so the number of asymptomatic infected is probably even higher.
The carnival event is comparable to a tango marathon, with three exceptions:
- People don’t dance close embrace, or hug for ten minutes with strangers
- The event is not three days long.
- The participants don’t come from all over Europe.
Fast forward: coronavirus in tango
Ferrara – first documented case in tango
A Spanish tanguero returns from an encuentro in Italy, and is tested for coronavirus: positive.
Consequence: the officials contact all participants and mandate they stay 14 days in quarantine at home. The patient 0 in this case: unknown. I posted a question for more details on Facebook, and received notice via private message that there are already a few more positive infected tango dancers from that event.
The Encuentro was on the weekend of Feb 21st, and the news article above was published on Mar 2nd.
Still: the calendar on TMD shows 9 events on the weekend of Feb 21st, including the Encuentro in Ferrara. The weekend after that, only 5 events. Next weekend: 5 more events, including LaToSCA, which was postponed just yesterday.#
Just adding this all together suggests: the virus is already in the scene of dancers travelling for tango, and spreading.
La ToSCA – postponed (link to news)
Let’s put aside, for now, the consequences of an infection, and just focus on what could have happened in Signa, if LaToSCA would have happened as planned:
The expected 400 dancers from all over Europe would have met, and celebrated a full weekend of tango. Lots of hugging, for at least one tanda. Much higher risk to get infected, when dancing with an infected partner. Much more than at that carnival event of 300 people that infected at least 60.
But let’s just take these numbers and make an analogy calculation: 400 dancers, 80 infected. Diagnosis probably made only in 14 days. For each infected person, there would be an additional 150 contacts of a first degree until diagnosis. And second or third-degree not yet counted.
One would need to send more than 1000 people to 14-day quarantine:
In the German town, it was easy: most of the participants were living in that town so that the contagion could be contained a bit more.
In the tango case, most people come from a different city. So for ToSCA, with 400 dancers, let’s assume they came from 150 different cities.
I don’t even want to continue the calculation. Not because the numbers are too high and demotivating, but because it just gets too complex due to the international spread of things. A Belgian newspaper makes an analogy from the “normal” numbers of influenza each year and comes to the conclusion of 850000 people infected with 50000 deaths.
So alone for this aspect of the scenario: it was a good idea to postpone the event. Kudos to the ladies who made that difficult decision.
It’s so sexy today to be an organizer. Create a nice event for your friends. Anyone can do it, and many are – just looking at the explosion of events over the last few years.
Organizing an event is hard work, and the actual work during the event is the easiest to see. It takes countless hours of planning, negotiating, doing marketing, guest relations, running after leaders, etc. Most events are done at zero or minimal profit. There are contracts with venues and caterers. DJs are hired, and travels have been arranged. And this is just to make the event. Then there are the participants, who have travel costs, book hotels, and other costs.
A tango marathon that costs 130 EUR entrance fee easily moves up to 300 EUR per person in all money spent by organizers and participants. So an event like La ToSCA with 400 participants moves somewhere between 50k (just entrance fees) and 100k EUR (additional travel expenses by participants). And a lot of this money spent is non-refundable.
I can tell you: the organizers who realize this, feel that money/pressure on their shoulders. The mere thought of the event not being good enough for the participants is already bad, but thinking about the cancellation: this is catastrophic.
And then participants might even think about demanding refunds from the organizers since flight tickets and good-deal-accommodation is often not refundable. But then: the organizers have contracts, obligations, and mostly not refundable.
So: as an organizer, you are basically fucked in this situation. Medically, and under societal expectations you feel obliged to cancel the event. As a dancer, organizer, and tango lover, you don’t even want to think about disappointing your guests.
And: who knows, maybe no-one is getting infected? It can’t be all that bad, right?
It’s a difficult decision, especially since that decision is not yours alone. As an organizer, it’s not you staying at home, and maybe not getting your dancing fix for money already spent. In this case, you make a decision that affects a lot of people. Either way – in the current situation everyone is already confused trying to figure out what they will do if the event is not cancelled: will they attend? And then there’s the whole media, family, society, telling us what is the right thing to do. But it’s just a few nice tandas, and surely the sick dancers will stay at home, anyway.
Let’s not even think about aspects of liability. What happens if someone gets infected at that event, and dies? Who is responsible? Who will be at fault? And even if legally there is no fault, will the organizers, or the participants be able to deal with that?
Tango, Corona and Buenos Aires
As it looks today: coronavirus cases are being reported everywhere in Europe, even if it’s just one case. We don’t know about the real numbers, because reported numbers are only what is tested, not what is real. Case numbers outside of China are still growing exponentially. In Germany, we have a doubling of numbers every 3 days, which means: 2x in 3 days, 4x in 6 days, and 8x in 9 days. The incubation period is commonly referred to as 14 days, but cases with up to 24 days have been reported.
As an organizer
- You should communicate with your guests. Don’t expect this to go away by itself. Your guests are already worried.
- You should evaluate options, and ideally already be in negotiations with your suppliers and venues for options: postpone the event would be best.
As a dancer
- Make up your own mind based on your situation. Especially consider your close surroundings, like family, relatives, and potential consequences.
- Be aware of the situation assessment of your foreign ministry, and your employer.
- Communicate with your travel mates, and the organizers.
- Be understanding of any decision made, and communicated by the organizers.
After coronavirus = Before coronavirus/other-virus
While this developing pandemic goes its course, it’s time we talk about responsibilities, options, and actions. (like here)
I don’t have any answers, so here are a few ideas:
- Get INSURANCE!
- Have a Plan B
- Take care of your participants
- Bathrooms: must be cleaned regularly; offer hand sanitizers; soap; disposable paper towels
- Food: prepare and serve food with gloves; no hair down policy when serving food; etc. – check regulations for gastronomy!!!
- Offer refunds for participants who decide they stay home because they are ill.
- Be aware of your participants’ health needs.
- Do you have guests who are 60+ or pregnant? They are at a higher risk.
- Don’t attend events when you are ill. No matter how many friends there are, and how much you need those dances or feel you deserve them. You will infect others.
- Be responsible for yourself and those you love. Family (children, grandparents, …)
- Wash your hands, regularly! and at least 20 seconds!
- Take care of your immune system. Eat healthily. Drink enough. Take vitamins. Sleep enough
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