Coronavirus: Tips for Event Planners During a Community Health Threat

As communities around the country (and world) are responding to the coronavirus public health emergency, it seems like every day we hear of another large convention or conference being canceled or postponed. But what about local events such as spring festivals, fundraising galas, sports games and tournaments, school parties and graduation celebrations? As the coronavirus continues to spread, it will impact your events. Now is the time to gather your leadership team and plan your organization’s response -- we’ve listed some important action items to consider.

coronavirus safety tips for event planners

1. Get the Latest Health Information

Consult with your municipal and state health authorities and closely monitor the rapidly changing coronavirus threat to your community. Ask for clear recommendations and criterion for when events should be canceled and

under what circumstances. Also check out coronavirus resources at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)World Health Organization (WHO). 


2. Communicate with Vendors

Review your vendor contracts, what are the cancellation clauses? Do you have event insurance? Open a dialogue with vendors about the situation and keep them appraised of impending cancellation or postponement. 


3. Go Virtual

It’s never been easier to live-stream and broadcast your events and meetings online. While sporting events are likely canceled, there are creative ways to continue with conferences, meetings and performances. 

  • Live streaming can be initiated for free on your organization’s Facebook page (via Facebook Live) and a smartphone or on your YouTube channel (via YouTube Live) with any smartphone or internet-capable video camera (including GoPro). 

  • A Zoom conference or webinar can accommodate multiple video feeds – great for hosting meetings with multiple presenters and getting creative with choir and orchestra performances.

  • Vimeo and Live are a couple of the vendors offering support in virtual video streaming of events at a moderate fee.


4. Communicate Clearly when Cancelling or Postponing

If you determine it’s appropriate to cancel or postpone your event, share as much information as you can with vendors, volunteers and participants and include local health authority recommendations. Be sure to give clear instructions for ticket refunds or vouchers when appropriate. If there is enough time, pause printing, food delivery and other event orders. If food and other useful items can't be canceled, can you donate to healthcare workers or a food bank in your community and brighten their day? See this help article for instructions on cancelling or postponing your SignUp.


5. Take Precautions and Promote a Healthy Environment

If your municipality is permitting events of your size:

  • Before the event, share “Stay Healthy Tips” encouraging volunteers and participants to take published everyday preventive actions to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, including:

    • staying home when you or family members are sick

    • appropriately covering coughs and sneezes 

    • avoiding handshakes

    • avoiding touching the nose, eyes and mouth with unwashed hands

    • washing hands often with soap and water. (If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.) 

  • At the event location, post prominent signs reminding participants your site is a “No Handshake Zone” (elbow-bumps and “jazz hands” are two recommended alternatives) and to please cover coughs & sneezes with an elbow.

  • Provide an ample, visible supply of hand sanitizer at event entrances, ticket booths, and near concessions stands and coffee stations.

  • Deploy a ‘sanitation team’ to wipe down handrails, door knobs, chair arms, ticket and concessions counters, and other high-touch areas with EPA-approved disinfectant products before and after the event.

  • Stock bathrooms with plenty of soap, towels, and tissues and add signs above the sinks promoting proper hand washing (for 20 seconds with soap and water).

  • Have a rehearsed plan for asking those who appear to become sick to leave the event immediately. Provide face masks and designate an isolation room to bring those who begin to have symptoms of COVID-19 and can’t leave the event. (Symptoms include fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath.) Contact medical providers or the local ER for advice.

If anyone knows how good it feels to be prepared, it’s you. Staying in the know, communicating frequently with municipal health leaders, volunteers and participants, and having a plan will help ensure the best outcomes at this uncertain time – so, when coronavirus strikes in your community, you've got this!

*Updated 3/23/20 due to changing circumstances nationwide.


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