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Randy Stein

Taking the gig in the time of pandemic: Do I?

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Last night I received a call from the owner of a restaurant I'll call Jim (not his real name). They are reopening with service in the patio area only and wanted me to play one or two evenings. He assured me they are taking all the required precautions . 

While I derive some income from playing and performing, I am retired now and live comfortably off my pension and SS benefits. I do miss performing and playing my music in public. I've recently arranged some new tunes and reworked some others and want to get out there and play.

But I am in a susceptible age group and after a recent heart procedure need to be even more vigilant in taking all the precautions to stay healthy and safe for me and my family.

So what to do? I know what my decision will be  but what would you do? 

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Randy--

Heart procedure says be careful and probably "no".  

Otherwise, any reasonably healthy person needs to get out and live and say "yes".  Our "experts" are going to keep us in the time of pandemic forever.....

Yeah some of us are living fine on our pensions and/or SS but how about the poor bastards that are trying to open their businesses and put people back to work?

(end of rant)

--Steve

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I think I would want to see, in writing, exactly what precautions they plan to take to protect your safety.  A general assurance isn't good enough, and might put you in a difficult position if you were to turn up and found they weren't adequate.  Having complete clarity beforehand allows you to decide whether to take the gig, and if not allows time for the venue to find someone else.  

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When life presents such a dillema to me I come at it from a different angle -  how will I feel afterwards with possible outcomes. If you don’t accept and nobody get’s sick afterwards you have just lost a gig and some money, you will forget about it in a week or two. If someone does get sick, you won’t and your life goes on uninterrupted - you can pat yourself in the back for making good decision. If you go and nobody get’s sick, you get some money and a nice if a bit scary evening and a week or two living in uncertainty and stress if you are susceptible to such worries. And if you go and do get sick, you will forever regret going, especially if you propagate this desease on your family or friends. Now because all those eventualities have unknown weights and our brains realy and fundamentally suck at probabilities, there is no room for rationality here, only for psychology - personally, are you scared and seek confirmation with this post, or have you already decided on going because COVID is no big deal and seek confirmation that there is nothing to worry about?

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Do you know a young musician who could recommend for the gig?   As long as they are otherwise healthy their risk is less than yours and they will almost certainly attach more value to the fee.  You avoid personal risk and can enjoy the warm glow of knowing you have helped another musician and the cafe owner.

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Let's not forget that a large part of the recommended safety procedure is to not infect others (wearing a face covering, etc.) as you may be asymptomatic.  Would you be singing?

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Posted (edited)

I just used the mental exercise the Łukasz described to decide if I would take such a gig. I decided that I wouldn't. I am in the vulnerable age group, but otherwise very healthy. But there just isn't enough potential upside to offset very serious potential downside. If I understand correctly, the restaurant would be going to open whether I took the job or not, in which case Steve's concern about restarting jobs would not apply to me.

Edited by Jim2010
removed bold type
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What would I do? Go for it. I'm an optimist. Life is for living.

 

LJ

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Randy Stein said:

I know what my decision will be  but what would you do?

 

For a proper answer, I would have to "put myself in your position"... and that has several meanings.

  • A heart condition would make me reluctant.  So would any potential health problem, since it's now been confirmed that covid-19 can attack any part of the body, including heart, kidneys, brain, and blood itself.  And it can do so with no respiratory symptoms.  I haven't been diagnosed with any such potential problems, but I would still be cautious.
  • You're in the Washington, DC area.  I'm in Denmark, where the overall risk of infection is much lower.  (Today, the limit on gatherings was officially raised from 10 to 50.  Only 14 new cases reported in the past 24 hours, with increased testing.)
  • I don't know what neighborhood you're in, but from both the news and a friend in Baltimore, I gather that some areas -- even neighborhoods -- are higher risk than others.  (But at least you're not living in a group home for the elderly, right?)
  • But what I would consider more important is the venue itself.  Will you -- and the air you breathe -- be among the diners, or isolated from the diners (and staff)?  The presence or absence of a clear plastic curtain and/or directional air flow would certainly have a big influence on my decision.  Luckily, a concertina doesn't have to be "up close" in order to be heard.

 

In your situation, I would probably decline.

 

One thing that might reverse that is if I were to test positive for the antibodies, i.e., indicating that I had previously been infected but was (hopefully) now immune.  (Another difference in our "positions" is that as of this week, I will actually be able to get such a test, simply by asking for it.)

Edited by JimLucas

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1 hour ago, Little John said:

What would I do? Go for it. I'm an optimist. Life is for living.

 

I agree that "life is for living", and that's why I'm more than willing to submit to a period of restriction if I expect that it will greatly extend the total length of life that I will eventually enjoy.

 

Meanwhile, there are many things that I enjoy in life which I can enjoy without crowds... and even "in isolation".

 

And then there's the possibility that the behavior which I expect will increase the length of my "life" may also be doing the same for others.  I consider that to be worthwhile.

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16 minutes ago, JimLucas said:

... that's why I'm more than willing to submit to a period of restriction ...

 

Do I detect a hint of moralising here? I, too, have been willing to submit to a period of restriction (unlike some of our politicians and their advisers). I'm not advocating that anyone does otherwise. But as soon as the authorities here deem it safe for pubs to open I shall be in there.

 

Not going to pubs has been one of the hardest things for me. Not playing in public seems to have been one of the hardest things for Randy. So in his position, given the legitimate opportunity to resume an activity I've been missing, I would take it. I don't see anything immoral in that.

 

LJ

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Interesting dilemma.  Adding to Łukasz's thought experiment, I'd also consider if any doors are closed by particular choices/outcomes, e.g. future gigging opportunities.

-George

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Posted (edited)

 

LIttle John quoted me as follows (sorry, the forum software won't seem to let me quote a quote):

2 hours ago, JimLucas said:

...that's why I'm more than willing to submit to a period of restriction...

 

2 hours ago, Little John said:

Do I detect a hint of moralising here?

 

A bit in my post, perhaps, but not there in the part you quoted.  I don't consider that to be "moralizing", but -- apparently -- a different outlook on life.  It appears that we've grown up with very different priorities.

 

E.g., to expand on the above, I have reason to believe that I'll live many more years in good health, and if I believe I can "buy" another twenty of those by having "less to enjoy" for a year or two,  I would consider that a bargain.

 

And it sounds as if you're more willing to take risks than I am.  I'm sure that there are many significant differences in our pasts which can account for this, but I don't think it's a point of "moralizing"..

 

2 hours ago, Little John said:

Not going to pubs has been one of the hardest things for me.

 

That's just one difference, but a big one in this context.  My parents being teetotalers,  I -- not rebelling against them -- became a social outcast.  I never even encountered a pub until I was in my twenties.  Now I will occasionally, though rarely, join friends in a pub, but more often the same friends in some other venue/environment.  I'm not suggesting you should trade your lifestyle for mine.

 

More about risks:  A big problem with this coronavirus is that there are huge gaps in the data that could tell us what the real risks are.  I know many people whose attitude is that if a risk is unknown, then they should behave as if it's small.  I take the opposite view, i.e., that if the risk is unknown -- or largely so, -- it's wisest to treat it as if it's great... unless and until proven otherwise.  And so far, with respect to the coronavirus pandemic, I find that to have been justified.

 

OK, here's what I see as the "moralizing":

2 hours ago, JimLucas said:

And then there's the possibility that the behavior which I expect will increase the length of my "life" may also be doing the same for others.  I consider that to be worthwhile.

 

One of the things that I miss most is visiting my friends in very rural Sweden... walking in the forest, plucking mushroons and berries, helping with the cows and sheep, etc.  But the few residents of that village are mostly from 65 up into their 90s, and it's 70 km to the nearest doctor, 150 to the hospital.  Knowing what I now know about how readily this coronavirus can spread, even and especially among individuals with no symptoms whatsoever, I am unwilling to make the trip.  Even if I start out free of the virus myself (which was the result when I was tested a month ago), I could become infected on the train or bus and then pass it on to my friends, without even being aware of it.  So even though it's been 6 months since I last saw them, I'm unwilling to risk doing that to them.

 

I hope that that won't be an issue for Randy, i.e., that he won't be in a position to even theoretically infect someone else with the virus.  But from my point of view, that is more generally a "moral" issue.  Riskiing harm to oneself is a personal matter.  Risking harm to others is not strictly personal.  And this coronavirus does harbor that risk.

 

 

Edited by JimLucas
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After reading the various responses, I thought it might be interesting know what experts (scientists) might think about activities outside the home. I couldn't find anything that was specifically about musicians, but I found the article below. It is essentially a poll of 500 + epidemiologists on what they personally expect to do in the next few months. You can see the results in an easy to read chart.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/08/upshot/when-epidemiologists-will-do-everyday-things-coronavirus.html

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56 minutes ago, JimLucas said:

It appears that we've grown up with very different priorities.

 

Maybe, but not necessarily so.

 

56 minutes ago, JimLucas said:

I have reason to believe that I'll live many more years in good health

 

And so do I - basically I'm lucky in that I come from good stock.

 

57 minutes ago, JimLucas said:

And it sounds as if you're more willing to take risks than I am.

 

Maybe, but only after assessing the risks. There are two parts to risk - the likelihood of something happening and the consequences if it does. With coronavirus the first is hard to assess - estimates for the UK seem to range from 1% to 50% of the population. But for the second my belief is that the consequences would be minor for me. So although I'm prepared to take the risk (when allowed to do so) it's only a small one. And actually, I think there's a fair chance I had it back in February, before anyone had talked about it.

 

LJ

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Posted (edited)

One thing I would add to the discussion: the "opening up" process, at least in the US, is driven by politics, lobbying by business interests and concerns about the economy, not science.  Also, I live close to Randy, and in our area we're seeing regular spikes in new cases.  

 

I will face the same dilemma next month, for a dance gig, and I already know my answer: no way.

Edited by Jim Besser
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Imo... if you are currently and have been self isolating then I would say no. Don’t do it.

 

if, however, you have been out and around, going shopping, in grocery stores, picking up take out, etc.. then I would do it. I would assume that you will be set up at least 6-10 feet away from customers. And if they have a small stage you can set up at the far or farthest point.

if you don’t sing, wear a mask, etc.

 

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12 hours ago, Jim2010 said:

a poll of 500 + epidemiologists on what they personally expect to do in the next few months. You can see the results in an easy to read chart.

 

Unless told otherwise, I would assume that the poll was confined to epidemiologists in the US.  Things are very different here in Denmark, which was one of the first countries to impose restrictions.

 

It's been about a month since barbershops and the like have been open, albeit with distancing restrictions (generally, no more than one customer at a time).  Similarly for daycare and schools for children up to 9 years old.  Yesterday, the limit on group size was raised from 10 to 50, and fitness centers and swimming halls are allowed to reopen.  (Some have done so, though one major chain has chosen not to.)

 

Meanwhile, Denmark's per capita rate of testing is approximately double that of the US, while its per capita rates of both reported infections and related deaths are both about 1/3 of those for the US.  In fact,this morning's report of new cases and new deaths (over the past 24 hours) gives zero for both.  I seem to be the only one still wearing a mask, even on the bus, though at one point everyone was, and the big stores are still supplying hand sanitizer and plastic gloves at their entrances.  The shopping street is almost as full of people as before the pandemic.  I've seen quite a few igh-fives and hugs, but not as many as previously.  I'd guess it's mainly among close friends, who are treating each other as if they were living together, but still keeping distance from strangers.

 

Last month, I had to see my dentist about a broken tooth.  At that time, one needed a referral from a doctor in order to get tested, but a dental visit was a valid basis for such a referral.  (I tested negative, and so was able to get the tooth fixed.)  Two weeks later, testing was opened to anyone who wanted it; just book a time over the internet.  (However, testing locations were not necessarily convenient.)  As of yesterday, that has been extended to antibody testing.  A friend -- who has a car, which I don't -- and I are now going to book times together.

 

And in spite of all this "opening up", the government has made it quite clear that any new increase in infections or deaths will result in immediate new restrictions.  "Immediate", as in when they closed their border with Sweden back in March.  At noon on March 14, they closed the border to all "non-necessary" traffic, and at the same time, they announced that they were doing so.  No advance announcement to allow people to hurry and evade the restriction before it went into effect.  (I was actually on a train to Stockholm when I learned that the closure went into effect after I got on the train.  Luckily for me, returning home was considered a "necessary" exception.)

 

And so I wonder what the results would be if a similar poll were taken of Danish epidemiologists.

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