17 May 2020 – Sunday – #63

My friend who works at a testing lab at a Barcelona hospital said that of the 400 Covid-19 tests he processed yesterday, six came back positive. That’s 1.5% Covid-positive from a population I’m assuming skews towards people with reason to believe they have an infection. My friend said it’s the best results day he’s seen in a while.

So, is our lockdown is over?

Most of the rest of Catalonia will advance to Phase 1 tomorrow, but Barcelona is special. Barcelona advances to Phase 0.5. Phase 0.5 keeps our travel restrictions in place, but allows small businesses and social services to reopen, with a recommendation to operate remotely as much as possible. To receive our Covid-19 diplomas, we have to advance through Phase 4. The fastest we can complete our coursework and complete our Covid-19 tests is 8 weeks, or early August.

I walked through Gracia last night and small businesses already are opening. It’s nice to see signs of life. The best news I’ve had for a while is that Swagatam, my fav Indian restaurant, is selling comida para llevar. Cards on the table, one of the reasons I moved to Barcelona is that Swagatam serves good Indian food and, where there is good Indian food, there are tasty spices to buy.

Here’s a snap of a street party across the street from Mercat de la Llibertat.

Gracia, near Mercat de la Llibertat, 16 May 2020

If you enlarge the image, you can see the party-goers safely distanced on their balconies. I don’t know whether these revelers switch on the music and pour drinks every night or just on weekends. With their costumes, they put my street, which plays five minutes of music while it applauds the healthcare workers at 8p every night, to shame.

Other than walking around Gracia, most of my evening was spent on a board call for the Moab Music Festival. By now, most summer music festivals have cancelled this year’s events. The Moab Music Festival is Labor Day weekend, though, and it’s conceivable to produce concerts three months from now if Covid-19 infections subside.

Moab Music Festival Board Meeting via Zoom, 16 May 2020

It would be inappropriate for me to get into the details of the board discussion. At any rate, with a eight hour time difference, I couldn’t stay awake for the conclusion of the board discussion so I don’t know what decisions were made about the 2020 season. Covid-19 can get even friends hot under the collar, but I was pleased that the festival board stayed pretty much on point in spite of any differences.

Two things struck me about our board meeting. One is that the thinking on Covid-19 from board members in urban areas outside Moab is different from board members in Moab, probably because Moab is virgin to Covid-19 outbreaks. The differences in Covid-19 perspectives were both refreshing and informative. I’m going to put the differences in an experiential bucket labeled “Exponential events are difficult to comprehend until they happen.” I imagine “Giving birth to a child” goes in a similar kind of experiential bucket.

The other is that the festival staff is well educated on Covid-19 in pretty much every aspect. Even though Moab hasn’t experienced a Covid-19 outbreak directly, some staff live in New York City and the rest have been paying attention to the news. No one is naive about the ramifications of Covid-19 for the festival.

Covid-19 creates a massive amount of uncertainty for decision making at the board and staff levels. It’s not clear whether people will travel to Moab for Labor Day weekend, how many hotels and restaurants will operate by then, how to work with local public health, park, and SBA officials, or how foundations and governments are processing and fulfilling grants.

The easy thing to do would be to call off the season, but there are risks with that, too. Plus the Moab Music Festival is unique in the amount of outdoor programming it provides. Indoor concerts in the 2020 season won’t happen, but there are opportunities for outdoor events under clear Utah skies. In a world looking for good things to happen, it would be great to provide music. Still, Covid-19 creates huge practical problems for staff, from replacing paper tickets and programs, to encouraging social distancing, to testing staff and performers, to messaging and legal liability.

Dave, the festival operations manager, also works with a number of local Colorado river guides. During our board meeting, he provided useful reports on issues other Moab tourist businesses face. One interesting tidbit to me is that lawyers for businesses say that there is an onslaught of liability cases coming. It’s difficult to to know who should take responsibility for Covid-19 health issues. That uncertainty creates an opportunity for lawyers to make money litigating.

The other point Dave made was that he’s tired of how much plans keep changing at all the companies he works with. He complained of the exhaustion of agreeing to a plan, starting execution on the plan, getting new Covid-19 information, and starting the process all over. I was exhausted after three hours on a Zoom call. I can’t imagine what artists and festival staffs around the world are up against.

This is my little window into the difficulty arts organizations face during the Covid-19 pandemic. I expect the Moab Music Festival will survive Covid-19, but many other arts organizations will not.

On that happy note, I’m going to summon my drag goddesses to help out.

Kinsey Sicks, From a Distance parody.

Keep your distance and wash your hands so that everyone can go to concerts soon!

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