Restore Illinois Dance Studios

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I am writing on behalf of Dance Studios within the great State of Illinois. In following our colleagues who made a similar proposal for Gymnastic Gyms that approved their opening with safety measures in place, I present this proposal and greatly appreciate your time and consideration.

Dance Studios, as an industry, is a finite but intensely vital portion of the Illinois Economy. In the US, Dance Studios the total market size is $4bn with an estimated 53,140 total businesses providing industry employment of 108,454. The Dance Studio industry has experienced growth over the past five years leading up to 2019 with industry revenue increasing at an annualized rate of 3.8% to $4 billion during the period, including an estimated growth of 1.4% in 2019 alone. The popularization of dance-inspired television shows and the rising interest in dance as an alternative form of exercise have positively affected the industry over the past five years. Not only do Dance Studios make up a large essential part of Illinois economy, the positive mentorship and value added to the children of our communities is immeasurable. We spend our days, nights, weekends, and holidays working towards keeping our kids strong, healthy, and safe. We teach steadfast values that stand the test of time, such as hard work, determination, perseverance, and resiliency. We lose sleep when our students face hardship, we celebrate with them when they persevere and succeed, but most of all, it is in our hearts to care deeply for these children for whom we mentor.

Currently the CDC guidelines state that organized youth activities are to reopen during Phase 2. I am going to present a compelling fact-based case as to why Dance Studios can reopen during Phase 1 of the CDC guidelines, or Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois Plan. I will discuss social distancing, and why dance studio facilities are in a unique position to maintain any given social distancing standard. I will then move on to explain why our art/sport differs from other sports in regard to our abilities to train effectively during COVID-19. Finally, I will discuss how Dance Studios will be able to provide your office and the DPH with extensive records for contact tracing if needed.

Social distancing has become the gold standard for COVID-19 mitigation efforts. In order for dance to be performed safely, each student has to have a significant amount of space around them, free from obstructions including other people, to complete any given skill or task. Any equipment that is typically used (including but not limited to: ballet barres, mats, exercise balls/bands) will not be used in the interim if they cannot be properly disinfected between uses. Lobbies, locker rooms and dressing rooms will be closed. The dance floor can be properly taped to show spaces where students need to maintain their work. This taped spacing will also be blocked out for teachers and assistants who may also be in the class. Social distancing is inherent to a safe practice. Even though dance can be considered “team” sport, everyone can practice in their own individual spaces. Dance concepts such as partnering or lifts will be prohibited during this time. As will any hands-on corrections of body placement and alignment that is typically part of the teacher’s job. Time between classes to reduce the number of individuals in the facility at one time will be adhered to. When the facility allows, entrance through one door and exit through another will be followed. Dancers will be expected to come dressed for class and personal belongings brought in will be limited to only the dance shoes needed for class and PPE in a disposable or washable bag.

Our art/sport differs greatly from the likes of most other youth sports. Football, soccer, basketball, and hockey all include some element of close contact or personal space infringement that make social distancing during training impossible. The location of some of these sports make handwashing next to impossible. Dance Studio facilities have bathrooms extremely close and can require students and staff to wash their hands upon entrance, intermittently during classes, and upon leaving.

Some of the requirements laid out to move through the phases of reopening, are the ability to provide ample testing for COVID-19, and the ability to contact trace in the event of a confirmed case. While the Dance community has no control over testing availability, we can provide you with the impeccable ability to contact trace infections. Dance Studios already take attendance and store it either electronically or on paper, for a significant period of time. We will provide the DPH with attendance records and contact information of anyone who was in the facility, at any given time.

Most, if not all Dance Studios, have windows and multiple entrances/exits that can be opened to increase air flow and provide fresh air exchange throughout the building. We are able to control our facilities to a greater extent than most businesses, are able to disinfect more often, and are able to maintain any social distancing protocols necessary to reopen during Phase 3 of Restore Illinois.

It is for these reasons that we kindly request that you consider Dance Studios for reopening during Phase 3 of Restore Illinois with the following modifications:

1.    Limit entry to facilities to maintain a ratio of 5 persons per 1000 sq. feet or less at any given time, in socially distanced gatherings of 10 or less, to a maximum of 49 people in the facility regardless of total square footage.

2.    Increase lead time between classes to be sufficient to disinfect with a CDC List N approved disinfectant.

a.    Any areas that are not able to be disinfected sufficiently will remain closed in the interim.

b.    Water Fountains will remain off limits in the interim.

3.    Maintain attendance records as to who is in the building and at what time, available to DPH officials as needed.

4.    Strict Social Distancing Protocols will be enforced.

5.    Conduct Health Screenings with questions and/or temperature monitoring to be determined by Illinois DPH officials, or CDC recommendations, at the door for both employees and customers.

6.    PPE will be worn by staff where required by Illinois State guidelines.

7.    All windows will be opened, to create an open-air environment to provide for ample fresh air exchange.

We do believe in the Dance community’s ability to implement any and all recommended mitigation techniques, while providing children an opportunity to begin to return to some sort of normal.

Thank you for your consideration!