On Gathering Safely
My Tuesday post wasn’t my best work. I had this whole vision for a piece about how we can learn from climate activists but doing the research was so grim I just kind of ran out of juice and called it done. In compensation, here’s an extra post for this week.
Part 1, the Party
I was invited to a Kentucky Derby party today. The invitation mentioned mint juleps, pie, and a hat contest. And then, at the end of the email it said this:
Covid - If everyone comes, we will be 17 people, I believe. I have a dining room, living room, and screened in patio with a fan, so we can spread out a bit. Fans will be on in the living room, and the windows will be open in the living and dining room and the air conditioners on.
I love you, party host. You are perfect. You provided exactly the information I needed to make an informed decision in a clear and matter of fact way. No big fuss. Every party should do that.
Part 2, the Conferences
I have been to two conferences in the last four months. I won’t name their names here, because they were both pretty disappointing in terms of COVID protocols. Both conferences required RAT tests for attendees on day 1. Both called for adherence to local COVID regulations. Both featured indoor dining, large groups of people in theaters, and minimal mask wearing by attendees.
These conferences were work events for me. I knew I was taking a risk and I took it. I stayed masked as much as possible, and I avoided indoor conversations to the extent that I could. I did not get COVID. Other people did - people I know. Both conferences could easily have done better. If in-person conferences are going to remain part of our lives, we could at least put some effort into making them safer.
A few suggested best practices for conferences:
Do not settle for following municipal guidelines. Put a little thought into how you can care for your attendees and go beyond the minimum.
PCR test on day one for attendees, not RAT. Daily PCR if possible. PCRs detect COVID infection much earlier in the course of the infection.
Ask your venue to maximize air turnover in the HVAC system. HVACs have settings - less air turnover means better energy efficiency but it also means more COVID transmission. Ask for maximum air turnover, and make sure that filters have been cleaned recently. (If you’re concerned about the carbon impact of the HVAC, look at reducing the amount of meat in your conference meals.)
Please fans at strategic locations in the venue to ensure air flow.
Hold as many activities as possible outdoors - breakout groups, workshops, almost any small group activity can be done outside.
For conference meals, use buffet stations distributed over a large area to discourage big dense groups of unmasked people
Announce your COVID protocols at the start of the conference, and politely request adherence.
Conduct a survey after the conference, and include a question that asks if they tested positive for COVID after the conference. Share the numbers with attendees so they can make informed decisions in the future.
These are the immediate suggestions that came to mind, the easy things. There must be more low-hanging fruit, though. What am I missing?