Coronavirus Community Update
March 13, 2020
AYCO/ACE has always been an advocate for safety in the circus community. Circus educators are familiar with risk assessment and mitigation, and prevention of illness and disease are a matter of safety much as injury prevention or aerial rigging safety. As centers of physical activity with relatively high opportunities for exposure to and spread of disease, the health of students, educators, and staff is a responsibility circus organizations carry. Over the past week, circus schools, studios, and organizations across the country have been weighing many factors in making difficult decisions about how to proceed as the novel coronavirus spreads nationally and globally.
Some of the factors impacting these decisions include local or state government limitations on gathering sizes; whether the organization’s programs serve high-risk populations such as seniors or those already in medical care; local situations like confirmed COVID-19 cases or confirmed community spread; public school closings; whether the organization also serves immediate needs of students such as safety or food security; and timing of planned future programs, class sessions, or performances. Each situation is unique, though the difficulty of trying to predict and balance potential impacts applies to them all.
Currently, many circus organizations are following the recommendations AYCO/ACE made earlier this week about communication, hygiene, and planning. Some circus organizations are continuing their regular operations with increased health and hygiene measures. Others are making significant changes to their schedules, program offerings, and/or policies on equipment sharing practices, partner work, etc. And some organizations are suspending or cancelling operations in an abundance of caution.
AYCO/ACE believes that as a circus community, we should all be identifying what we can do to prevent or slow contagion. “Flattening the curve” ameliorates the potential for overburdening medical resources, a situation which would cause exponential harm.
Increased hygiene is a basic measure for everyone to take. For disinfection practices for various types of equipment and surfaces, AYCO/ACE recommends referring to established sources of information such as the CDC Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations for community facilities, and adapting programming to allow for sufficient sanitization (limiting use of certain equipment, or number of people using equipment in between sanitizing). These CDC recommendations include the use of diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants for hard surfaces and, for fabric, laundering in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions using the warmest appropriate water setting.
Social distancing is also currently a highly recommended practice to slow the spread of COVID-19. While recognizing the significant adverse economic impact (among other impacts) of limiting or cancelling programming such as group classes, in high-risk areas these measures can be necessary. Circus organizations should follow all local governmental bans on gathering size limits and, if institutions such as public schools or public after-school programs are closed, not offer programming that would have similar participant demographics and gathering sizes.
Of course, the best case scenario is that if such measures are successful, we will never know how much worse it could have been. Even so, it is clear that, along with many other industries, there are difficult times ahead for circus education providers and students.
AYCO/ACE will continue to do everything possible to support our community, foster communication, and look to the future. We hope that circus students, educators, administrators, and leaders will draw on the circus spirit of resilience, creativity, and community as we all move forward together in uncertain times.
American Youth Circus Organization/American Circus Educators Association
March 9, 2020
Given the breaking news about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), AYCO/ACE would like to share some recommendations for preventing the spread of illness in circus communities, especially since circus spaces are gathering points where many people come together and because many circus activities often involve close contact and shared equipment.
Circus students, educators, administrators, families, and other individuals can follow these basic guidelines:
+ Wash your hands often and vigorously with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before and after circus practice in a circus facility; after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (but always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty).
+ Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
+ Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
+ Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
+ Stay home when you are sick. (We know how sad it is to miss doing circus, but this is the best way to make sure your friends and community don’t get sick too!)
+ If you can, avoid ‘close personal contact’. Instead of shaking hands or giving hugs, do an air high-5. If you’re doing partner or group acrobatics or aerial skills with other people or spotting a physical skill, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after, and to avoid contact with each other’s faces or touching your own face.
AYCO/ACE also recommends that circus schools, studios, programs and organizations consider taking these extra taking steps for prevention:
+ Share information about personal hygiene and illness prevention procedures with your student community and staff.
+ Increase cleaning and hygiene practices, with increased frequency of sterilization of frequently touched surfaces and equipment.
+ Increase availability of hand-washing/sanitizer facilities and supplies.
+ Review, publicize, and consider expanding cancellation policies to encourage sick students to stay home.
+ Encourage staff to also stay home when sick, and review sick time/paid leave options for employees.
+ Consider adapting certain skills, disciplines, and/or spotting techniques that bring people into close physical contact (e.g. spotting low tightwire by holding elbows instead of hands).
+ Consider rescheduling, postponing, or restructuring performances or other events that bring together large numbers of community members if there is currently a COVID-19 outbreak in your area.
+ Review and update emergency preparedness plans, and consider creating an infectious disease outbreak response plan if not already in place (preparing for absenteeism or closure, ensuring strong communication paths, etc).
+ Follow CDC, WHO and local health department communications for up-to-date information and recommendations for businesses.
Thank you all for doing everything possible to keep our circus communities healthy and safe, and for working together and supporting each other locally, statewide, and nationally!
American Youth Circus Organization/American Circus Educators Association