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!
Zimfest 2022 Organizing Committee