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December 1, 2021Bruce Fife - AFM International Vice President
OK, all those who are done with COVID, raise your hands! (I have this fun image in my head of people raising their hands in all kinds of strange places, with people around them wondering what the hell they’re doing.) As a union officer and as a human being, it seems like I can’t go for an hour without working on COVID safety protocols, answering questions about the “current data,” debating the issue of “lawful exemptions,” and “reasonable accommodations,” every day, all the time. This is my life in the middle of a pandemic.
Every six months or so, I contribute an article for the International Musician. As I was thinking about what to write, I went back to my last article, written in May for the June issue. What an optimistic view I had then, before the delta knocked us back down. Depending on how you count, delta was the fourth, and most significant surge. As I write this, infections are dropping again, at least in the US. Though they have stalled a bit, we’re still nowhere near our lowest rates back in late June of this year.
On the upside, we are returning to work. The main observation I have about that is: I have not seen nor heard of any confirmed cases of COVID caught in the workplaces where we have union contracts and strong safety protocols in place. The vaccine mandates, testing, and mask wearing protocols that we’ve implemented seem to have successfully kept workplaces safe, and even identified and quarantined musicians that are COVID positive, having caught it outside of our workplaces.
This has kept the infection out of our pits and off our stages. I have not seen the same level of success in this area as it relates to many of the indie/pop touring acts, most of whom operate without any union contracts in place. While I’m sure they have implemented safety protocols as well, I’m not sure they are enforced with the same scrutiny that is evident in our union houses.
Despite that relative success, we’re still all weary of this—the nonstop barrage of information, analysis of the data, wondering what’s next or around the corner. We all just want to be able to sit in peace, take a deep breath, or sigh of relief (without a mask on), and be done with it. I commented in a recent meeting how “short” and frazzled I seem to be of late when interacting with the public or family. It is a sign of the times.
Even though we have this desire, we can’t relax now. I know there are some analysts stating that we have arrived at where we are going to be. We all just need to live with it right now. I disagree! We saw what happened last time. In Oregon, we did pretty damn good with the first several surges, but delta kicked our asses. Where we had been at the bottom of most of the graphs detailing infection rates, during delta, we inched closer to the top. It was a struggle to reimplement all the protocols to bring us back into a downward trend. We’re doing well again, but, to quote a tag line from one of my long ago gigs, “it’s not done with us yet.”
So if I can ask, please, everyone, just hold on for a while longer. Don’t relax. Let’s keep operating with all the safety protocols in place until we’ve successfully put COVID in a box. We don’t want any new variants. We don’t want any more lockdowns. We want to bring all the mandates to an end so we can see each other’s smiling faces and cheery attitudes again. But that doesn’t happen if we step out too soon.
Please be well, get vaxed, if you’re not and boosted, if you are. Wear your mask, properly. Stay safe out there and try to keep a positive, healthy attitude, as we enter the last days of this two-year “miss” adventure.