Seasoned meeting planners know that there is only so much we can control. That said, there is also SO MUCH that is actually is within our control, even in this time of COVID.
Scientific research has been conducted on the efficacy of current approaches to limiting the spread of the virus. It’s definitely worth a planner’s time to understand the “why” behind the “what”. A good place to start is with a report shared by the Office of the Chief Wellness Officer at Ohio State University, which outlines Scientific-Based Evidence for Conducting Safe and Healthy Professional Meetings and Events.
You are free to read the report in its entirety, here I share some of the highlights:
- Mask Wearing still ranks as an important factor. At the very least, meeting planners should require all unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask. Please see more information in my past blog.
- Physical Distancing has not been well researched, but do check out what the CDC has shared on the subject. Basically, physical distancing is not necessary for those that have been fully vaccinated, and the non-vaccinated should honor the 6-foot distancing rule. Meeting planners should require proof of vaccination from all attendees. Also, consider requiring attendees to be fully vaccinated or develop a plan for how non-vaccinated attendees may still participate.
- Disinfecting Surfaces is not as high on the list of risk mitigation, but is it recommended that meeting planners follow the CDC’s recommendations on cleaning. Hand hygiene, washing hands for at least 20 seconds, has been associated with decreasing the chance of transmission.
- Proper Ventilation and Airflow has not been clearly identified as a risk factor. That said, until evidence proves otherwise, it’s best to follow the CDCs advice on ventilation in buildings. The airline industry is taking this very seriously as I’ve shared in a recent blog.
- Food and Beverage Services should require a low touch approach that includes pre-packaged meals which greatly reduces the number of touches between preparation and consumption. If possible, outdoor dining is preferred. The CDC lends their expertise on this subject as well.
- Screening Options include temperature screening and asking questions regarding an individual’s wellness and symptoms. While these have become common practice, the efficacy is not currently well supported. As well, meeting planners will need to consider if the cost is worth the effort. A possible preventative measure is to advise and remind attendees that they should not attend the event if they are running a fever or experiencing any symptoms.
- Layering Mitigation has been cited as a way to increase protection from the COVID-19 virus. There are not a lot of studies to date, but one study matched controlling ventilation plus mask wearing and found that it reduced risk by up to 50%. This same study found no need for social distancing if masks are worn.
Ideally, each individual that may attend your event should consider it their personal responsibility to seriously think about whether or not their participation puts others at risk. For example, if their community is experiencing a surge of transmissions, perhaps they should forego the event this time around.
Of course, what individuals do and how they behave is beyond our control. With this in mind, it may be worth creating a campaign that emphasizes their part in staying safe both personally, and from the perspective of their responsibility to the community at large. Your messaging can feature the latest scientifically backed and/or CDC What’s New & Updatedinformation, along with how they themselves can remain healthy. Be sure to refer to Appendix A on page 9 of the report lists some very helpful resources to share with your audience and team.
As always, best to you, meeting planner! Stay safe, stay healthy, and continue doing your amazing work!