As various states begin to open around the country and restrictions around meetings, events and gatherings begin to loosen, it is crucial to follow the CDC considerations. These considerations or guidelines are meant to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and any state or local health and safety rules or recommendations should always be followed. Additionally, state and local health officials should be consulted or collaborated with to determine the best way to host a meeting or event. Event planners, organizers, or officials should continue to monitor current conditions when deciding whether to reduce the number of attendees, postpone, or cancel.
A few things to note:
A gathering refers to both planned and unplanned events or meetings
A gathering refers to participation levels of both small and large numbers of people
Gatherings include conferences, meetings, concerts, festivals, sporting events, parades, weddings, or community events
Risk levels of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings:
Lowest risk - Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.
More risk - Smaller outdoor gatherings or events where attendees are from the local area, social distancing is enforced, objects are not shared, and participants wear face coverings.
Higher risk - Medium-sized in-person gatherings or events that enforce social distancing and attendees are traveling from outside the local area.
Highest risk - Large in-person gatherings where social distancing cannot be enforced (due to crowd side, logistics, etc. and attendees are traveling from outside the local area.
SARs-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is believed to be spread mostly through respiratory droplets that occur from people talking, coughing, or sneezing. The virus is also thought to be spread from contaminated surfaces to hands and then to the eyes, nose, or mouth, causing infection. Because of the way the virus is spread, handwashing, staying home while sick, maintaining 6 feet of social distance, wearing a cloth face covering, and frequent cleaning and disinfection can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Event planners should be prepared by implementing strategies that promote healthy behaviors and maintain a healthy environment.
Promote Healthy Behaviors
Stay Home When Appropriate - Encourage both staff and attendees to stay home when appropriate. Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is showing symptoms or anyone who has had close contact with a person who has COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days should stay home. Develop policies that encourage sick employees or staff to stay home and develop flexible refund policies for attendees.
Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette - Require frequent hand washing, post signs in the bathrooms and around the venue promoting handwashing, and the proper way to wash your hands (with soap for 20 seconds). If soap and water are not readily available, provide hand sanitizer stations or giveaways with at least 60% alcohol. Encourage staff and attendees to cover their coughs and sneezes and discourage physical greetings (handshakes, high-fives, and fistbumps).
Cloth Face Coverings - Cloth face coverings are meant to protect others if someone is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Require staff and attendees to wear cloth face coverings when physical distancing is difficult. Babies and children younger than two, anyone having trouble breathing, and anyone who cannot remove the face covering without assistance should not wear masks or face coverings.
Signs and Messages - Post signs in high traffic and high visibility areas promoting proper handwashing, wearing a mask, and protective measures to stop the spread of the virus. View our own popular sign designs or visit CDC Communication Resources for free print and digital resources.
Maintain A Healthy Environment
Cleaning and Disinfection - Clean and disinfect shared objects and frequently touched surfaces between uses (think doorknobs, payment terminals, tables, countertops, registration kiosks, etc.). Consider closing off areas that can not be properly disinfected regularly during the event. If buses or other transportation is being used, follow the same cleaning protocols as established for inside the venue.
Restrooms - To promote social distancing, consider limiting the number of people allowed in the restroom area at one time. Do not allow lines or crowds to form without maintaining a safe social distance of at least six feet. Increased signs, posts, markers, or floor decals may be necessary to help attendees maintain their distance. If portable toilets are being provided, make sure to include portable hand washing stations or touchless hand sanitizer dispensers.
Ventilation - When possible (without posing health or safety risks) increase circulation of outdoor air with open doors or windows. If fans or other ventilation equipment is being used, make sure to minimize the air from one person blowing onto another.
Modified Layouts - Limit attendance or seating capacity to allow for social distancing. Consider hosting smaller meetings or events in larger rooms, using multiple entrances and exits, and spacing seating at least 6 feet apart. If you cannot change the seating in the room, make sure to block rows or chairs or tables to promote at least 6 feet of distance between attendees. Eliminate lines or waiting areas as much as possible. If there is an area where this cannot be avoided, consider adding floor decals, signs, posts, or other markers to help your attendees maintain their distance. Whenever possible, prioritize and encourage outdoor activities and offer online or virtual attendance options.
Physical Barriers and Guides - Provide visual reminders on safe social distancing (tape or decals on floors, signs). Consider creating one-way hallways or routes for your attendees to take to limit physical contact. In areas where social distancing is not possible (such as registration, cash registers, etc.) install physical barriers like plastic partitions and sneeze guards.
Food Service - The CDC states that there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread by food. It can, however, be spread on shared utensils and when people congregate around food service areas. To limit the spread of the virus, avoid offering self serve food or drink options, offer grab and go options, use disposable food service items (utensils and dishes) and use touchless payment whenever possible.
Following these CDC guidelines and implementing strategies that maintain a healthy environment around the event facility and promote healthy behaviors can go a long way in making your attendees and staff feel safe and confident in participating in your event. Since there will be new policies and operational changes to convey and enforce, it’s best to over-communicate the precautions you are taking with both staff and attendees during the planning/registration process and throughout the entire event. Be sure to make a robust game plan for increased signage and other methods of communication at the event.