Deciding whether to have a meeting or event
Given all the guidance from health authorities about limiting social gatherings to as few people as possible, various “shelter-in-place” decrees by cities and states, and widespread travel bans and border closures: you should postpone or cancel all scheduled events for the foreseeable future.
It’s not easy to be confronted with the possibility and expense of canceling a long-planned event. But as cities and states issue increasingly strict guidance about public gatherings, and as people reduce their travel, it’s important to be ready for the eventuality.
Before an event
- Check with local authorities where you plan to hold the event and follow their advice. Many local governments are now canceling approval for large events, or restricting venues from hosting them. And of course, keep a close eye on geographical clusters of transmission of COVID-19.
- Consider how you might adapt your event to be virtual instead. This might be as simple as hosting a Facebook Live video or as complex as a high-touch production with both live and pre-recorded elements.
- Establish a clear convention for emergency communications with your attendees. It is important to establish this before there is an emergency (or sudden cancellation) so everyone knows who to contact, what to check, and what the relevant policies are in case of an emergency.
- Develop a plan to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection at your event.
- Ensure you have enough supplies and materials available for any participants who might develop symptoms during the event. These include tissues, hand sanitizers, and surgical masks as well as disinfectant wipes, paper towels, and sprays for cleaning and wiping down highly-trafficked areas like sign-up tables or vendor booths.
- Advise attendees that they should not attend if they feel unwell.
- Make sure organizers, participants, caterers, and visitors provide contact details: phone numbers, email address, information on where they are staying. Let them know that these details will be shared with local health authorities if one or participants becomes ill and COVID-19 is suspected.
- Develop a plan for what happens if a participant becomes ill during or soon after your event.
- Identify an area where someone can be isolated.
- Have a plan to transfer them to a healthcare facility.
- Hold your event in well-ventilated spaces or outdoors. Open windows and doors whenever possible.
During the event
- Provide clear information for attendees, conference and facilities staff, and volunteers on what measures and procedures are in place. Make sure to provide this in multiple formats including part of your introductory announcements as well as posted around the conference and on the conference website.
- Establish new social norms for greetings that do not involve physical contact and if possible create space for people to maintain social distancing (>3 feet apart). Encourage attendees to say hello without physical contact.
- Provide contact information so attendees can ask for advice and give information. Also provide information on local health facilities.
- Generously provide and display alcohol-based sanitizer around the venue, and encourage good hygiene practices, including regularly washing their hands and sneezing into tissues or their arms. Provide closed trash bins so people may dispose of materials safely.
After the event
- Keep contact information for all attendees for at least one month. This will help public health officials trace people who might have been exposed if other participants become ill shortly after the event.
- Let all participants know if another participant is isolated with suspicion of having COVID-19. They should be told to monitor their temperature for 14 days and avoid contact with other people.
- If participants develop a mild cough or low-grade fever after the event, they should self-isolate and contact their healthcare provider. Participants should tell their provider about their recent travel.