Coronavirus and You: Five Reasons It’s Safe to Attend a Dance Intensive this Summer
Summer of 2020 hasn’t turned out like anyone expected, has it? For many of our students, it’s been a disappointing time of plans falling through and dreams seeming to evaporate into thin air. For us here at Joffrey Ballet School, it’s been a time of retooling some of our summer dance intensives for delivery online, moving others to alternate locations, and preparing to safely welcome our students back in person.
Despite the challenges presented by the reaction to COVID-19, we remain committed to helping our students safely achieve their dreams in dance and in life despite the current challenging environment. We’re proud to say that unlike approximately 60 percent of summer camps and dance intensives across the country that have closed, our doors remain open. That’s because at JBS, our diverse array of intensives across multiple locations along with our technological leadership have allowed us to offer our students learning options that many other camps and intensives simply don’t have.
However, we’ve had questions from many of our dancers and their parents about whether it’s safe to attend a dance intensive during the pandemic. Our response is that it is not only safe, but necessary. Here are five reasons why.
Reason 1: Coronavirus is FAR Less Deadly Than Predicted
The initial estimates indicated that coronavirus was up to 10 times as deadly as the flu. That was wildly incorrect. All updated figures from the CDC indicate that in fact, the death rate from coronavirus is far lower than initially thought. CDC now estimates that just .4 percent of coronavirus cases are deadly. That’s looking at all ages. Looking at the death rates by age shows that for those 34 years old or younger, the likelihood of dying from COVID-19 is just .00005 percent in youth. Furthermore, just 7 percent of COVID-19 deaths occurred in otherwise healthy people; the vast majority of cases have involved the elderly and people with underlying health conditions. If one accounts for the 7 percent of the .00005 percent in healthy youth that means our healthy children have a a probability of .0000035 percent in healthy youth. That number is ASTRONOMICALLY SMALL.
Essentially, a healthy person under the age of 35 has a better chance of being struck by lightning twice in a row as opposed to dying from COVID.
It’s clear that for young people between the ages of 8 and 25 – the age groups most likely to attend one of our summer dance intensives – there’s less than minimal risk from COVID-19.
Reason 2: Young People Are Least Likely to Become Severely Ill
Another early finding in regard to the coronavirus was the fact that not only are younger individuals less likely to die from COVID-19, they’re also far less likely to become severely ill from coronavirus than older people. The age differences indicated by those early findings have held up over the last few months. In fact, recent estimates from the CDC indicate that the risk of a person between the ages of 18 and 49 years becoming sick enough from COVID-19 to require hospitalization is just .0592%. For those between the ages of 5 and 17, the risk is even lower at just .003%. If one accounts for the fact that only 7% of those were healthy the true hospitalization rate for healthy youth between the ages 5 and 17 is .00021 percent. Once again very very very low.
Reason 3: Safety Guidelines Protect Against the Coronavirus
Although many summer camps have voluntarily closed their doors this summer, this hasn’t been a requirement in most jurisdictions outside New York City and a few other Coronavirus hot spots. Even leading public health authorities like the CDC have not suggested that summer camps and similar types of programs like summer dance intensives should be closed. After all, these programs perform vital services for young people and families. Furthermore, most summer camps are outside of the cities where the majority of cases exist (the vast majority of cases are asymptomatic)
Instead, public health authorities have offered guidelines to help organizations that operate these programs to do so safely and minimize the potential risk of disease transmission. At Joffrey Ballet School, we have incorporated these guidelines, such as frequent cleaning and disinfection, increasing space between dancers, limiting contact between groups and frequent handwashing into our programs wherever possible. We are committed to meeting or exceeding safety requirements in the jurisdictions where we operate our intensives because we are concerned about the health and safety of our students and staff as well as their families.
Reason 4: Physical Activity Guards Against Dangers of Social Isolation
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out strongly in favor of having children and young people return to in-person learning environments as soon as possible rather than continue social distancing at home. They cited the mounting evidence (some of which we’ve outlined above) that transmission of coronavirus by young people is uncommon, and said that the greater danger for children are the dual risks of learning loss and social isolation.
Social isolation in particular places children at risk of a variety of negative outcomes such as depression, substance abuse and even suicidal ideation. In the words of the AAP, social isolation “places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality.”
The risk of depression due to social isolation is a serious one. In a survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the National 4-H Council, 70 percent of teen respondents reported that they have struggled with their mental health in some capacity as a result of social distancing. 61 percent of teens said the pandemic has increased their feelings of loneliness; 55 percent said they had experienced anxiety; 45 percent say they are under excessive stress; and 43 percent believe they are depressed.
Know that isolating your child from family, friends and activities is far more likely to cause harm than the minimal real risk of the virus.
Reason 5: Dance Training Won’t Wait
Lastly, we bring up a fact that is related to the unique needs of the young people we work with. We agree with the AAP that continued social isolation has the potential for long term educational and career consequences for today’s youth – perhaps especially for the serious young dancers who attend our summer dance intensives.
Dance is a highly demanding physical pursuit, one where training as a young person is essential to one’s career prospects and longevity. For better or worse, the best time to train the body and prepare the mind for a physically demanding dance career is adolescence and young adulthood. Unfortunately, these years are fleeting; to spend them in social isolation does dancers just as much of a huge disservice as it would an Olympic athlete who gives up their training during this pandemic.
We recognize that families want to keep their children and vulnerable family members safe, but also caution that there is a cost. Social isolation that continues for too long could be doing so at the expense of many young dancers’ futures.
The jury is out on what the long term consequences of COVID-19 will be for today’s young people. However, we believe that dancers who delay their training due to social distancing may be at a disadvantage later due to what management consultancy McKinsey and Company has identified as the “COVID Gap.” Academically, assuming social distancing lasts until January, McKinsey’s modeling suggests that students will lose between 7 and 14 months of learning, depending on remote instruction quality and support at home.
There’s another danger for dancers as well: physical detraining. Physical detraining is the process by which fitness is lost when dancers or athletes are unable to train. Typically, detraining begins to occur after 2 to 3 weeks of reduced or no physical activity. Muscle strength is lost first, with atrophy occurring after just 2 to 3 weeks. Athletes (and dancers) lose about 25% of their endurance after 4 weeks of reduced activity, along with about 30 percent of their flexibility. Unlike academic losses, these losses can be regained in a few weeks with a return to physical activity.
We believe our summer dance intensives help to guard against these physical and academic effects of social distancing. For all children, but especially those pursuing career interests such as dance where youth is an advantage, continued social distancing and isolation could have lifelong consequences for their career prospects and future choices.
COVID-19: Facts Not Fear
As parents and teachers, we understand that this is one of the most challenging times that our dancers and their families have ever experienced. It has certainly been challenging for our team here at Joffrey Ballet School. However, we believe that in these times, it’s necessary to let facts, rather than fear, guide our decisions. We believe that the facts show that it’s safe for young people to attend any of our summer dance intensives and any summer camp across the country.
Be careful of all media; as they are paid via ratings, fear sells, their ad rates go up and they make more money the more people are scared and glued to the news. They are not selling the real picture based upon the real data.
If you’d like to learn more about the real facts surrounding COVID-19, we encourage you to visit https://flattenthefear.com/
God Bless You All and God Bless America.