Zimfest in the time of Covid-19: A perspective

Posted on behalf of OC member Mark Swift

I am fairly new to Zimfest, having attended my first festival in 2019.  I am really excited about returning to an in-person event this coming June!  I understand that there is some hesitation about committing to performing and teaching due to uncertainty about health safety in the time of Covid-19.  No one can predict the future, but things are looking up.  I fully understand that everyone’s comfort level is different, and different people have different levels of risk. I just wanted to share my perspective as someone who lives in western Pennsylvania. 

From where I sit, the Pacific Northwest has done a great job dealing with Covid-19.  Our local vaccination rate is only 60%, a full 10% lower than Washington State.  I would estimate only 1 in 10 people bother to wear a mask indoors in public places.  Bars and restaurants are full.  Cases in my county are currently sky high.  And yet, at the college where I work, we have successfully kept the total number of cases down to 1 or 2 per week since students returned to campus in Fall 2020. In 2020-2021 everyone on campus was tested at least once every two weeks and that helped keep the case load low, with a small bump in the post-holiday surge in January/February 2021.  Through the Omicron surge, cases have increased somewhat, but positive tests results remain in the low single digits every week. How? Simple, we made the campus a near Covid-free bubble.  We required students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated, and masks are required indoors.  Students are living together in the dorms, working in the community, coming and going from their homes, but still, on campus, masks and vaccines have allowed us to keep our rates low.  We are having normal classes without social distancing.  And though people are aware of their personal space and are washing their hands often, we are mostly “back to normal.” 

I present this story as evidence that with a little mitigation like vaccine requirement and masks, it is possible to create a safe “bubble” in which we can all gather and enjoy Zimbabwean music together.   For those who are at greater risk, by all means, stay home and stay safe!  I am sympathetic to the anxiety you must feel and hope the world becomes a safer place for you as soon as possible.  But if you are in reasonable health, vaccinated, and willing to mask, I really hope to meet you at Zimfest 2022! 

Mark Swift
Zimfest 2022 Organizing Committee

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5 Comments on “Zimfest in the time of Covid-19: A perspective

  1. Fred King says:

    I don’t think that is the reason many people aren’t signing up. Some of us don’t believe in the idea that we should be forced to take medications we don’t need.

    • Janis Weeks says:

      Community members can make their own individual decisions about whether to be vaccinated or not, and to attend Zimfest or not. Many people have indicated they would not consider attending Zimfest without a vaccination requirement and other safety measures onsite.

  2. Angela Marie says:

    I am one of those who would not consider attending a music festival in person this June if there was not a requirement that attendees be vaccinated, and if safety measures were not being put in place.

  3. Erin Ely says:

    From my perspective this is a no win situation for the organizing committee.

    Personally I think the Zimfest committee is working hard to do the best they can under the circumstances. They have come up with what feels like to me a very creative way to put the festival together for the times we are in.

    Either you will come or you won’t come. I know how much work it takes to organize this festival as I have been part of organizing it myself in the past. However without a min commitment to meet the requirements for the event location, the festival cannot happen.

    The festival will still have to follow the local and event requirements regardless of what we all think about them.

    I just feel like the organizing committee is in a no win situation whatever they decide to do. We may not always agree on things, however it’s just what it is.

    Are we seeing the decline of Zimfest as a festival? What will happen if people don’t rally to make this happen in 2022? Are people just not interested in attending Zimfest anymore?

    • Claire Jones says:

      Well put, Erin! I am seeing not just within the Zimfest community, but even within bands, an entire spectrum of stances regarding the COVID pandemic and social dynamics. There are those who are fervently against vaccination or feel “forced” to vaccinate in order to remain employed, to those who do not feel comfortable attending a gathering unless there is a vaccine requirement, to those who will not feel comfortable gathering in a theater or even outside in June, regardless of vaccination status. Do be kind to one another as we negotiate these differences within bands, local communities and the larger community.
      The Organizing Committee will be making a decision after the end of the application period (28 February) whether we have enough participation to produce a live (or perhaps shorter) Zimfest 2022 or pivot to all-virtual festival as in 2021.