Masking is a Diversity Issue: A Letter to the Dance Community

Angel & me in hugI am 75 and it has been nearly three years since I’ve been able to dance my beloved West Coast Swing regularly and freely. All of us have lost time and great dances, but when you are 35 or 45, you have time to catch up.

Allow me to establish two points:

1. Covid is out to kill older people:
Out of more than 1,000,000 US Covid deaths between January 2020 and January 2023, over 90% were people over 50. If you just look at people over 65, it is about 75%
2. Vaccinations and boosters help you protect yourself. Masks help protect others.

Newcomer winners NYDE 2017-8And it is not just old people who are vulnerable. People with compromised health may also be excluded from maskless dance. Then there are the younger or healthier people who are caretakers for the vulnerable. They don’t want to take risks either.

Born to leadWhy are instructors and event organizers happy to exclude us? Masking should be part of everyone’s diversity toolkit. If your goal is to make West Coast Swing as available as possible to as wide a range of dancers as possible, require masking, at least for the early part of the evening. You may not have noticed, but you’ve lost the income and the company of many vulnerable dancers who are not attending dances. I know this horse has left the barn, but I feel devastated that I have to follow.

I’ve made every effort to keep myself well, but the reality of the statistics hovers over me. I’ve been doing partner dance since the 1960s. I cannot imagine life without dance, but first there has to be life.

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