After getting a question in the BIDA Facebook group, I was curious what mask policies contra dances are using. I looked at the dances marked as active on trycontra.com and checked their websites for mask requirements ( sheet).
Of the 56 dances that have resumed, 31 (55%) require masks. Of those 31:
2 (6%) require surgical or better.
4 (13%) require a surgical + cloth or better.
4 (13%) require high-filtration masks (N95, KN95, KF94, etc)
Now that high-filtration masks are widely available, it does seem like a weird compromise to require masking but allow low-filtration options like cloth or surgical, especially when I haven’t seen anyone wearing a P100. Specifically:
Most of society is no longer requiring masks: bars, nightclubs, workplaces, transit, etc. In MA, one of the more cautious states on this issue, the state requires masks only in healthcare, paratransit, shelters, and jails.
This means that the reason to require masks at dances is to allow people to attend for which it would otherwise be too risky.
A group wearing surgical masks poses a risk to individuals (wearing the mask of their choice) that is roughly (per microcovid) 1⁄4 as risky as if the group were fully unmasked.
This means that if a group switches from masks-required to masks-optional and more cautious individuals switch to P100s, risk to those individuals very likely goes down.
Which then has me wondering: why do we see people saying that dances need to require masks, but not wearing P100s? Some guesses:
People have adjusted to high-filtration masks now being available, but not to the availability of P100s.
The P100 masks are more expensive up front. On the other hand, the part you wear lasts years, the replacement filters are ~$6/pair, and a filter pair lasts much longer than a disposable high-filtration mask, so the cost should be similar or lower over time. I also suspect that in most communities people who prefer dancing without a mask would be willing to cover the cost of P100s for people who need them if we could sort out a good way to do this?
People may think P100s are less comfortable. My experience is that they are a bit more comfortable: slightly more pressure on the face but more spread out, and much less resistance to breathing.
They have vents. This is an issue in places that require masks, since masks with vents are usually prohibited. Microcovid estimates that they provide a small amount of filtration on exhaust, about the same as a well-fitting cloth mask and about 3⁄4 as much as a surgical mask. I think they probably shouldn’t be prohibited unless you’re also disallowing cloth masks? This is also not an issue if masks are optional.
They look weird. That, I will definitely grant, but I don’t think that is enough of a reason to require everyone else to wear masks? And, of course, a dance full of masked people would have looked pretty weird in January 2020.
Overall, I think a policy of optional masks and subsidized P100s would be much better than just “masks required” (currently the most common thing for dances to do). I think it’s likely also better than requiring high-filtration masks for everyone, but I’m less confident there.
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