Kent County Administrative Health Officer Adam London cautions venues, performers and fans that the reopening of bars and restaurants comes with rigid rules and risks of spreading COVID-19 when it comes to live music. The Local Spins interview.
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Monday’s reopening of bars and restaurants after a long COVID-19 shutdown has many Michiganders excited about getting back to something approaching normalcy, with some Grand Rapids-area venues already scheduling live music performances to celebrate.
And that has Kent County Administrative Health Officer and Health Department Director Dr. Adam London very worried.
In a Local Spins interview, London warned that large gatherings are still prohibited, social-distancing must be enforced, face masks must be worn, ventilation is critical and proper disinfection of everything from microphones to tables and chairs is imperative.
That makes live performances “a real challenge,” he cautioned. “It might not be a great time for live music or conducive to that at this time. It’s going to be pretty limited. People are going to have to maintain facial coverings. We’re not where we need to be yet. Our numbers are still worrisome in the Grand Rapids region.”
London stressed that “Phase 4” of Michigan’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic comes with stringent regulations that limit bars and restaurants to 50 percent capacity while observing 6-foot social-distancing requirements. That means that a small bar might actually be limited to much smaller capacity numbers in order to meet the social-distancing rules.
Larger concert venues and theaters, he noted, still aren’t allowed to open.
Without reopening in “a smart way” and taking all of these necessary safety precautions, the Grand Rapids area could see a jump in COVID-19 cases that would bring back tighter rules and shut down businesses again, he said.
“I am concerned,” said London, who’s also past president of the National Environmental Health Association.
“We’re going to add risk to this equation with COVID-19. … I’m concerned people are going to think we’re somehow through this. We can quickly see a resurgence of cases in which we have to go back to Phase 3 and that would be terrible for our community.”
LIVE MUSIC IS ESPECIALLY TRICKY AND PRONE TO SPREADING THE VIRUS
Live music is an especially tricky activity when it comes to containing spread of the virus. Singing or playing instruments that are “pushing air through a device” have been proven in studies to boost transmission of the virus, and sharing microphones and instruments can be a problem.
London stressed that singers must wear a face mask unless they’re “medically unable to do that.” Will they comply? Can they comply and still sing effectively?
Consequently, solo acts or instrumental duos and trios might fare better under these conditions. Rock bands and bigger ensembles are “not a great idea right now,” London insisted.
“There’s a certain level of exertion (with) a rock band act that increases the rate of respiration,” he noted. “There’s a lot of emotion and passion in the art of music, and right now, we’re in a place that things like high-fives (and passionate singing) are exactly what this virus is looking for.”
He added that “the inhalation of the aerosolized virus that comes from coughing, breathing, singing, sneezing” and playing certain types of instruments is a key way the virus is spread.
Based on London’s advice and current protocols, Local Spins has created some basic guidelines for fans thinking about attending shows, performers planning to play concerts, and venues considering live music:
𝅘𝅥𝅯 FOR FANS 𝅘𝅥𝅯
Before you head to a concert, check to see how the bar or venue plans to accommodate patrons and meet social-distancing requirements. Outdoor settings for live music are the best option.
Wear a face mask, bring along a hand disinfectant and be prepared to wash your hands afterward or if you use the restroom.
Maintain a safe distance from other concertgoers and stay well away from anyone not wearing a mask.
Don’t crowd the stage or get too close to performers.
If the area is overly crowded or not meeting face-mask requirements, leave.
𝅘𝅥𝅯 FOR PERFORMERS 𝅘𝅥𝅯
All performers, including singers, must wear a face mask.
Don’t share microphones or instruments, and disinfect all of these before and after use.
Maintain safe social-distancing on stage. If that’s not possible, move some performers off the stage or don’t play if there isn’t sufficient space.
Maintain a safe distance between the band and any fans. Once again, outdoor settings are the best option.
𝅘𝅥𝅯 FOR VENUES 𝅘𝅥𝅯
Make sure employees are wearing face masks, ensure that social-distancing requirements are met, regularly disinfect tables, chairs, door handles, etc. and keep any employees who feel sick at home.
London stressed that all businesses should visit Kent County Back to Work online for specific guidance on reopening safely. The site at kentcountybacktowork.com provides details about “best practices” for a “lower risk, thoughtful reopening.”
“Make sure you double-check what’s allowed or not allowed or you could be unwittingly violating the rules,” said London, noting that while infection numbers may fall amid the heat and humidity of summer, a resurgence in cases is possible.
WEAR A MASK, BE ‘MINDFUL OF EVERYONE ELSE’ AND LOWER THE RISK
“We have a ways to go. … I do respect the fact that while we’re trending downward, (case numbers in Kent County are) still higher than most other parts of the state. Having people packed into bars and restaurants, and creating a situation that could precipitate going back to Phase 3 would be catastrophic.”
And while some believe it’s their right to express their freedom by returning unfettered and unmasked to concerts and events, London cautioned that the coronavirus plays by its own rules.
“Our nation is built on individual rights. They’re precious, but a virus doesn’t care about that,” he said.
“The reality is when you make a choice that’s higher risk … you’re also at higher risk of spreading that virus to other people who didn’t make that choice. We all have to be mindful of everyone else … and lower the risk for everyone. It’s much better for everyone in the long run.”
This is the latest entry in Local Spins’ series on restarting live music post COVID-19. Read more online here.
VIDEO: Adam London (The Local Spins Interview)
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