The organizers of Kalamazoo Pride, OutFront Kalamazoo, recently announced that the annual summer event would be canceled this year. While it was initially expected that the June celebration would be merely postponed till April, OutFront Kalamazoo's Executive Director Amy Hunter said she no longer felt that was wise after considering data from the medical community as well as consulting with civic leaders, sponsors and allies.
"I spoke with officials familiar with the capacity of the health systems here in the area, more or less to confirm an observation I had already made. That observation was that any 'outbreak' of any significant size in the area could potentially overwhelm the capacity of our hospitals and primary care facilities to effectively treat patients.
"Certainly, we did not want to be the cause of such an outbreak and given the lack of, or conflicting information about how the virus spreads, the effect weather conditions do or don't have on its ability to adapt and infect new hosts we did not wish to take the slightest chance that Pride attendees, performers, staff and volunteers would be put at even a minimal risk for infection and spread."
Hunter said she became convinced that canceling rather than merely postponing was the best course of action as new data about infection rates and knowledge of asymptomatic spread began to come in.
"What finally capped it for me, coupled with an overwhelming desire for the safety and well-being of our community and allies, was that polling began coming in which, again, answered a question and an observation I was seeing anecdotally: Would people feel safe attending? The public sentiment in those polls, confirming my own conclusion, was by far and away no. The public would not feel safe and, furthermore, would not attend a 'crowd' event until there was certainty of safety.
"That phrase, 'certainty of safety' was an analog for 'effective vaccine,'" Hunter went on. "An effective vaccine is likely months if not well over a year away. With all of this taken into consideration — especially public health – we could not move forward this year, except with a virtual celebration in June."
The decision to cancel, Hunter acknowledged, hurt the center financially.
"I will not sugarcoat this," she said. "The hit to our budget is big – six figures big – and I'm scrambling to find funds to fill in the hole. But, I think of it this way: We are here to help the LGBTQ community be safe, feel safe and know that they are loved and cared about. And staying true to our mission precludes any compromise of those goals. A hit to our budget, no matter the size, pales in comparison to the moral imperative of serving our community wisely. Safeguarding the public health of the LGBTQ community is wise and taking a hit for that on our budget is an act of love."