Toy car on a map, with text reading 'Are we there yet?!'Introduction

One key question that keeps cropping up as we prepare for restarting in-person activities is: How will we know when the time is right? All music, dance, and song groups need to chart their own course based on their location, state and local public health guidance, type of event, and community needs. We hope the following set of resources will help organizers navigate the myriad decisions involved with safely resuming in-person events.

CDSS recommends that you follow your state and local guidelines to make decisions about your events. See this link for a variety of sources and statistics. Latest additions: Covid Act Now and Global Epidemics


CDSS offers these resources as reference materials. They are not meant to be taken as all-inclusive, hard and fast guidelines. The information available to us and our understanding of risk continues to evolve. We believe these are important topics for organizers to consider when preparing for reentry. We encourage you to use any portions that are helpful and add any other considerations that apply to your community.

Feedback and Updates

After reading these resources, if you have questions about reentry that haven’t been answered and/or suggestions for topics to include, please share your input.


Groups that Have Resumed In-person Events

If your group is considering preparing for reentry, check out this new online resource from CDSS. You’ll find easy access to firsthand experiences from groups that have reopened their events. If you've resumed your events, submit your own information to help others guide their decisions!

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Katy GermanKaty German

Perspectives from CDSS Executive Director Katy German

Dear Organizers,

I want to say thank you to all of you who are still carrying the mantle of organizer for your communities, even though much is still uncertain and guidelines are changing all the time these days. I also want to make sure you know that we at CDSS are really, really in awe of your dedication and passion for everything you’ve been working through. We realize the conversations and questions are exhausting, and we know your communities will come out stronger, because of how much you care about this and how much time you’re putting into it.

Since risk levels and safety considerations vary by individual and community, we aren’t going to be able to provide definitive answers to all the questions we’ve received. We know it’s maddening to not know when and how it’s safe to return to the traditions we love, and we wish we could give you the magic recipe. But it would be irresponsible for us to tell you, “This is the formula that absolutely prevents all risk and harm for your community.”

The good news is that even though we may feel fragmented, we are actually all in this experiment together. And we know how to do things together well! This is not a randomized trial we are in. Right now we get to choose which test group we want to be part of: some are ready to go back as soon as possible, some won’t be ready for a good long time, and others are everywhere in between. Each one of these groups can help us all learn and understand how to best take care of our communities, and we really need to be able to learn from each other now. Our hope for our larger community, as different and varied as we are, is that we can resist the urge to shame and attack and fight amongst ourselves, and think of us as playing different roles amidst this big experiment.

We need to have good communication across the board even when we disagree, because organizers need to make conscientious and careful decisions that will impact their communities. The experiences and perspectives of others help us to make informed decisions in difficult times. For example, CDSS has decided to move forward to having in-person camp programs for vaccinated individuals only this year, and we know that some of our broader community isn’t ready for that. We listened to many voices and ultimately made a decision that feels right for our situation. It is so hard when we aren’t all on the same page. And it’s particularly unsettling for all of us singers, dancers, and musicians who like to be in step and in tune with each other!

So I hope that we can continue working together, making our own decisions, listening to others as they make decisions that are different, and supporting each other through this unpredictable time. I think that's our best path forward.

With gratitude for all that you do,

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List of Reentry Considerations


As Katy German mentioned in her perspectives message, we wish we could give you a reentry formula that prevents all risk and harm for your community. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible, since all organizers need to make your own decisions based on a variety of factors. We hope the following considerations will support you along your way. Please take the time you need to evaluate all criteria that are pertinent for your group, and remember that we’re all in this big experiment together!

Since plans for reentry will continue to evolve, the following list is a work in progress. We are grateful for input from organizers Katie Olmstead, Carol Ormand, Debra Chesman, and Bruce Baker. We also welcome your input! So if you have questions that haven’t been answered and/or suggestions for topics to include, please submit them through this Reentry Resources feedback form.

We will also periodically provide updated materials over the coming months.
Watch this space for links to updates and responses to feedback.

Reentry Considerations for Organizers of Music, Dance, and Song Groups

Note: According to all our sources, it’s important to start here:

Does your group have someone continuing to monitor your state and local COVID-19 regulations and guidelines? See this link for a variety of sources.

Other topics

Are there any other considerations you think should be included in this list? If so, please send us your input using this Reentry Resources feedback form. See above for links to responses and updates.

More Considerations for Dance Organizers

More Considerations for Organizers of Music Groups

More Considerations for Organizers of Song Groups

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Sources of COVID-19 Guidelines and Statistics

Note: If you’re planning an event, the venue may have more stringent guidelines than CDC, state, or local officials. Also, your local health department may have important information about infection rates and local guidance.

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Community Survey Template

Gathering input from your community can be a valuable part of charting your group’s course for reentry. For this purpose, CDSS has been using Google Forms, which can be an easy and free way to find out how your community members feel about various aspects of the reentry process.

There’s a good chance that someone in your group has experience with using Google Forms and/or other online survey options. If not, here’s a YouTube tutorial to help you create a survey for your group.

Here’s a link to a sample survey that includes a variety of questions to consider (see below). If you’d like to use this as a template to adapt for your group, you can use this link to make a copy and save it to your own Google drive.

Please remember that the questions in this sample survey are suggestions and not an all-inclusive list. We offer the following questions to help your organizing group tailor questions for your survey:

  • What input on which topics do you want to gather?
  • What questions will help you solicit and measure the input you need for making your decisions about reentry?

Possible survey questions:

  • What is your vaccination status?
    • I am fully vaccinated.
    • I intend to be vaccinated.
    • I am unable to be vaccinated.
    • I have chosen not to be vaccinated.
    • I prefer not to answer this question.
    • Other
  • If you answered “other” to the previous question, please briefly explain:
  • Are you ready to return to our in-person dance/music/song events?
    • Yes
    • Maybe
    • No
  • If not, what do you need in order to feel safe to return to our events? Check all that apply:
    • Knowing that vaccinations are required
    • Wearing masks being required
    • Everyone providing their name and contact info for contact tracing
    • Gathering inside
    • Gathering outside
    • Practicing social distancing
    • Other
  • If you answered “other” to the previous question, please explain:
  • How interested would you be in returning to our events if vaccinations were required?
    • Scale of 1-5: 1 = Not at all interested / 5 = Very interested
  • Would you attend if anyone present was not vaccinated?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Other
  • If you answered “other” to the previous question, please explain:
  • How likely is it that you would attend our events if you had to wear a mask while participating?
    • Scale of 1-5: 1 = Not at all likely / 5 = Very likely
  • If you are interested in returning to our in-person events, when would you feel ready?
    • Immediately
    • In the next 3 months
    • In the next 6 months
  • Please share any other questions or concerns you have about returning to in-person dancing/singing/music events.
  • Your name (optional)

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Waiver Template

During the May 19, 2021 Web Chat, this Waiver Template was shared by attorney Ann Marie Noonan for educational purposes. This template does not constitute legal advice, and individual organizations should consult their legal counsel.

Attorney Noonan noted that while using waivers can be an additional step to assist in reducing liability, they do not prevent groups from being sued. However they may be helpful in the event of a lawsuit. She further reminded us that this is an emerging area of law and subject to change, and organizations should continue to stay on top of changes in federal, state, and local guidance and laws.

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Ann Marie NoonanAnn Marie Noonan

Questions and Answers from Attorney Ann Marie Noonan

During the CDSS Web Chat on May 19, 2021, the following questions were addressed by Ann Marie Noonan, an attorney for Hurwit & Associates in Newton, MA. Here is a link to her presentation slides, which she narrates in the Web Chat video (minutes 8:30-22:55). The topics she addressed include: 

  • Can and/or should organizations require proof of vaccination?
  • When does the ADA apply requiring potential accommodations or creating risks to requiring proof of vaccination?
  • What constitutes a Private Club to exclude an organization from ADA requirements?
  • Is there a risk of being held liable for the spread of COVID at events?
  • Overall steps to reduce risk of legal exposure related to spread of COVID at events
  • Using a waiver as an additional step to assist in reducing liability

In addition to Ann Marie’s presentation, here are her answers to questions submitted by Web Chat participants.

Note: In reviewing these materials, please note that this information was shared for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. Each circumstance is unique and requires fact-specific assessments and determinations. Individuals should consult with legal counsel regarding your specific circumstances.

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Ben Williams. Photo by Mira Whiting.Ben Williams, CDSS Insurance Manager
Photo by Mira Whiting

Questions and Answers from CDSS Insurance Manager Ben Williams

During the CDSS Web Chat on May 19, 2021, Ben Williams, CDSS Sales and Insurance Manager, presented important considerations about insurance. Ben has been a CDSS staff member since 2018. In addition to coordinating the insurance program and 501(c)(3) services for CDSS Affiliates, Ben also runs the store and oversees publications. Ben is also a life-long singer and began contra and English country dancing in Western Massachusetts during his college years.

Note: CDSS is not an insurance provider, and Ben Williams is not an insurance agent. We cannot provide advice about whether or not your group should get insurance, or about the specifics of your unique situation. CDSS recommends speaking with a licensed insurance agent or lawyer to determine the needs of your group. CDSS does not sell insurance, but our Affiliates are eligible to apply for coverage under our group policy.

During his presentation, Ben mentioned that a group would need to be successfully sued to file a claim. This is incorrect—a claim can be filed at any time and can potentially cover legal costs of a suit, regardless of outcome. Claims for property damage or medical costs can also be filed, subject to the limits of the policy.

Questions? If you have insurance-related questions that are not answered below, see the FAQ section of the Group Liability Insurance page on the CDSS website, and/or contact Ben at

Updates: We will continue to add batches of Q&A updates from Ben at the end of this document. Please note the date each batch has been added.

Here are the key points from Ben’s Web Chat presentation, followed by his answers to questions submitted by participants.

Highlights from Ben’s Presentation

  • The first and most important point is that the CDSS general liability policy, which we offer to our Affiliates, does not cover any COVID-19-related claims, nor are we aware of any general liability policy that will.

  • Our insurance policy runs from May 1st through April 30th of the following year.

  • Directors and operators insurance is not included in our policy.

  • The policy we have is a general liability policy, which generally covers legal claims against your organization. Our policy has some additional limited coverage for property damage and medical expenses, but it is not accident insurance or property insurance.

  • The policy doesn't prevent you from being sued. Unfortunately there's nothing that can prevent you from being sued.

  • Waivers are a good idea and that's something you should look into and decide if it makes sense for your organization. They will not prevent you from being sued, but they may help your defense in the event that you are sued. Note: Check out the waiver template provided by attorney Ann Marie Noonan.

Questions from Participants

Here are questions from participants during the May 19 Web Chat. Click on each question to view Ben’s answer.

More Insurance Questions

The following questions submitted by the 5/19 Web Chat participants are answered in the Group Liability Insurance FAQ:

  • What costs are covered? Legal costs? Settlements?
  • If you are sued, is there a requirement to notify the insurer even before there is an outcome?
  • Do you know of specific cases where an organization was sued or the liability insurance was needed?
  • Are board members personally liable in suits against 501c3s, or just the organization's assets?
  • In a normal year, approximately how many CDSS affiliates are actually sued? Do you know the total number of cases?
  • Does the policy cover us if someone sues us after breaking an ankle on the dance floor?

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Michal WarshowMichal Warshow

Questions and Answers from Epidemiologist Michal Warshow

During the CDSS Web Chat on May 19, 2021, the following questions were addressed by Michal Warshow, MHA. Michal has a Master’s degree in infectious disease epidemiology and is currently a supervisor for the contact tracing response to COVID-19 for Arlington County, Virginia. She has been a dancer for 30+ years, organized the Chesapeake Dance Weekend for 20+ years, and has been program director of Cascade of Music & Dance Week. Her home dance is Glen Echo, Folklore Society of Greater Washington.

Note: Michal opened her presentation with this warning: “I'm not going to tell you what to do. So I hope nobody is disappointed that I can't give you black and white answers. I think you've probably figured that out already. But I want to provide you with enough information to make decisions for either your community or yourself. Also for the purposes of this talk, I'm just going to focus on dancing, but the same concerns are going to apply for singing and music events as well.”

Here are questions Michal addressed during her Web Chat presentation, including input for the Q&A with participants. Click on each question to read Michal's answer.

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David NortonDavid Norton

Questions and Answers from Public Health Professional David Norton

During the CDSS Web Chat on August 12, 2021, the following topics and questions were addressed by David Norton, MD. David is a pediatrician at Holyoke Pediatric Associates in Holyoke, MA. He has always had a keen interest in public health and has been a member of the MA Medical Society Committee on Public Health for over 20 years. He is also Chair of the MA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Immunization Advisory Committee. In his spare time, David enjoys morris dancing and co-organizing the Rainbow Contra Dance of Western MA.

For materials from David’s portion of the Web Chat, check out these links to his PowerPoint slides (#5-19) and the Video Recording (minutes 5:00-36:28). See below for summaries of key topics from his presentation, followed by his input for the Q&A with participants. Click on each question to read David’s response.

The questions below were submitted by participants during the Q&A of the last Web Chat, followed by David’s replies:

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Katie Olmstead. Photo by Doug Plummer.Katie Olmstead
Photo by Doug Plummer

Perspectives from Organizer Katie Olmstead

During the CDSS Web Chat on May 19, 2021, Katie Olmstead from Florence, Massachusetts shared the following perspectives from her experiences as an organizer.

A lifelong dancer of many styles, Katie has been immersed in contra dancing and English country dancing since the 1970s. She was the co-originator and continues to co-organize the Greenfield 4th Friday series for experienced contra dancers. Katie also chairs the events committee that runs several big annual events with the Friends of Greenfield Dance (New Year's Eve, the Contra Prom, etc.) and various workshops throughout a normal year.

Friends of Greenfield Dance Website
Facebook Group: Experienced Dancers' Contra Series in Greenfield

Here are some of Katie’s perspectives about preparing for reentry:

I am one of the Greenfield, Massachusetts dance organizers. We have been meeting more often, not less often, during the pandemic. Taking ideas primarily from these Web Chats, we've been talking about how to constructively use this time, and how to plan for re-entry.

Some of our topics have been:

  • Exploring fresh advertising streams so as to bring in new dancers;

  • How to change the culture going forward, so that people stop going to dances in order to sweat out that cold they feel coming on. Who hasn't gotten sick at a dance? There’s a story I've heard a couple of times. I don't know what dance hall, but there was a person who showed up wearing glitter. By the end of the evening, every single person was wearing her glitter. If glitter can be shared from person to person to person, so can the air we breathe, and cold germs (remember when we actually worried about cold germs?) Can we communicate a new culture that holds, and I can see this coming up on a sign: “If you feel sick in any way, please come back another day.” This is an opportunity, really, to reset how people think.

  • We are asking if all our dances will resume at the same time, or will we need to take into account that some organizers might feel ready sooner than others. We have eight to ten nights with different organizers over a month. What would that look like?

  • How will we communicate to our community about the need for proof of vaccination? Who is going to play the heavy by monitoring dancers before they even get into the hall?

  • Another question we have, and this has obviously been talked about: Will we need name and contact info for contact tracing, and should we add in a signed disclaimer in case someone contracts COVID? What would the process be, should someone report that they got sick? Should we have a conversation with a local public health person before we reopen? How long do we save tracing records?

  • The mask question: What about masks? Would they provide a sense of safety? The question that I hear in my head a lot is: If we need masks, is it too soon?

For us, we dance in a beautiful historic grange hall. I believe this is the first time in 100 years it has ever gone dark. Other dances may simply rent a hall. Ours has fixed expenses, and we feel a strong responsibility to help out, to assure that our fine dance hall will still be there, and not sold off, when we return. So there is that work.

We need, as others have said, to recognize federal, state, and county municipalities, and the venues themselves may have different laws, regulations, and guidelines. All need to be followed. And if some are in opposition, the strictest rules, laws, or regulations are the ones we need to follow.

And now we need a meeting, because we're getting ready to get into the real nitty gritty: requiring proof of vaccination, how to actually do that, and how to communicate that to our community.

Some people, especially since the CDC new guidance, are saying, “Oh, let's dance now! I'm vaccinated and ready to go.” Our job is to hold that enthusiasm, along with what Michal said at an earlier Web Chat, that contra dancing is an epidemiologist’s worst nightmare.

Members of all music, dance, and song communities need to know that we, the organizers, are being thoughtful, smart, checking with the science, and will not resume until we are confident that the time has arrived to be together safely. This is a lot of responsibility for us, and it should be.

We all care about each other and take the safety of our communities, both physical and emotional, seriously. We have to reopen with great care. How do we make each other, not only actually safe, but make it so that it feels safe?

I hope that all organizers will see this hiatus as an unusual opportunity to reset some standards, pay more attention to overall safety on the dance floor, or whatever your community is, bump up your communities to be attentive, moving forward; maybe even think about those things like bathroom signage, and definitely pay attention to other signage, be welcoming, and be smart.

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