The Odds Of Surviving The Milonga

Story | Opinion | Martin van Kesteren | 15 Sep 2020 | 2 comments

Am I a bad person if I do a little fist-pump when I hear that infections are going up in age groups with mild symptoms? They are my heroes, those ‘younger people’, dancing in nightclubs with their t-shirts off! With each infection, the risk of the virus spreading reduces, especially if they are spreading it among themselves!  I have referred recently to epidemics in Buenos Aires, to suggest that people will never be stopped from dancing tango. But why opening the milonga  without everything that makes it great? It’s like going on a rollercoaster at the speed of a snail. But I’m still nostalgically longing for it.  Last Saturday, I took my first lesson. Sunday, I assisted giving one. Today, I am doing some wishful calculating… 

I am aware of the frightfully treacherous mechanism of exponential growth. We have learned that our actions today may cause casualties in 20 to 40 days. Still, don’t we have this thing under control in the Netherlands? At this moment, for every 100,000 people we have 200 people infected. There is roughly a 1:500 chance of meeting such a person if you disregard exposure time. In most parts of the Netherlands the number is much lower but I am sticking to the Amsterdam region. Like you, I have been worrying about a second wave, which is common to every pandemic. However, early warning signs of the virus being present in the sewers, also derived from asymptomatic people, shows that the rate of infection has been going down steadily since April and not going up, not once.

The tango community isn’t exactly a reckless group of ‘younger people’. You won’t see me take my T-shirt off. So, our chances may be slightly better if we ventilate well and take responsible measures, including some germ-killing technology. Can’t we reduce our risk further by casually checking on how people have been dealing with lockdown? Do they have the responsibility of caring for vulnerable loved ones? Do they have kids? In that case, according to my rationalisations, our chances of getting infected would go down to 1:1000. You can tell me I wasn’t paying attention in statistics class but by now my spine is so weak that I am pretty sure I won’t like to hear your counter arguments.

I realise of course, that I may run out of luck and get infected after all. It happens to people every day, so why not to me? For easy arithmetic, I’m fixing the overall mortality rate at roughly 1%. I understand we’ll only know exact numbers in a few years’ time, but, I also suspect it won’t be much higher than this. Guestimating the average age of the tango community to be 45 years old, however, compels me to gratefully assume a much lower mortality rate of 0.1%, bringing the actual risk of not surviving a good milonga somewhere in the region of 1:10,000.  For comparison, each year in the Netherlands some 1:10,000 die in a traffic accident. Damn!  I just doubled the risk of opening a milonga. Heeeelp!


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Published: 15 Sep 2020 @ 12:14


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Anonymous commented:

As one who caught Covid in March and who has yet to fully recover, I suggest that you do not just consider this virus to be something that is only accompanied by a low mortality rate. We don’t yet know the full implications of “long Covid” and I can only speak from a personal point of view but my own fear is that I am now permanently handicapped by shortness of breath on exertion. Tango, for me, may now be even more minimalist than it had already become. My strong advice is this. No hobby, however passionate you feel about it, is worth this risk just yet and possibly not until you can be protected by a vaccine. – Read
Comment | Anonymous | 16 Sep 2020

Martin van Kesteren (Author) responded:

Hi David, I’m sorry for your misfortune and I hope you will recover as soon as possible. To be clear, we are not opening our milonga yet, and if we would, it would be with sensible safety measures. I am writing this from the perspective of the milonga organizers exploring where our responsibilities end, and where the individual tango dancer’s responsibility starts. We are a not- for-profit social initiative, with no other objective than optimizing pleasure. There comes a moment where we have to decide whether the risk associated with our invitation is a public or private matter. Hence my reference to traffic related risks. Thank you for giving your opinion, it helps me put things in perspective. – Read
Comment | Martin van Kesteren | 17 Sep 2020
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