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Suggestions for Hosting a COVID-Safe Event

While we are all glad to return to a more normal semester complete with the events we hold dear, we must also recognize that these events have significant potential for adverse community impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Crowded settings, indoors or outdoors, increase the chances for transmission of disease including the virus that causes COVID-19. This is particularly important given the prevalence of the Delta variant and significant numbers of breakthrough cases (infection of fully vaccinated individuals) in our campus community. Several factors can contribute to the likelihood of attendees getting and spreading COVID-19 at events. This impacts the safety of our campus communities. 

Individuals who are exposed to or infected with COVID-19 at an event must endure not only the health consequences but also the quarantine / isolation orders (typically 10 days). Events where transmission occurs can result in the quarantine of many individuals and disrupt classes and other campus activities. 

Considerations Associated with Hosting an Event 

Event organizers should consider the following factors when planning an event. 

  • Number of COVID-19 cases in the community—High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the event location or the locations the attendees are coming from increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Relevant data is available on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID Data Tracker County View and on the Ohio University COVID-19 Dashboard
  • Event setting—Indoor events, especially in places with poor ventilation, pose more risk than outdoor events. 
  • Event duration—Events that last longer pose more risk than shorter events. Being within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more (over a 24-hour period) greatly increases the risk of becoming infected and requires quarantine
  • Number and crowding of people at the event—Events with more people increase the likelihood of being exposed. The size of the event should be determined based on whether attendees from different households can stay at least six feet apart (two arm lengths). Physical distancing at events can reduce transmission risk—for example, blocking off seats or modifying room layouts. 
  • Behavior of attendees during an event—Events where people engage in behaviors such as interacting with others from outside their own household, singing, shouting, not maintaining physical distancing, or not wearing masks consistently and correctly, can increase risk. 

The Presidential Health Directives outline public health requirements for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors. In addition to these regulations, we offer the following recommendations that event hosts should implement to promote healthy behaviors.  

Promoting Healthy Behaviors that Reduce Spread 

Event planners should consider implementing strategies to encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19 among staff and attendees. The following actions will contribute to a safe event with little COVID impact. 

  • Event hosts should design events so that individuals from different households maintain six feet of physical distance at all times, even if outdoors. This ensures that there is not a single close contact at the event. 
  • If there is not space to require six feet of distance between individuals, consider creating “bubbles” or “pods” of not more than 10 attendees. Event hosts are responsible for tracking who is in each pod. Only individuals who were in a pod with an infected individual would be considered close contacts.  
  • If there is not space for bubbles or pods, track attendance and seat locations for all attendees. 
  • Food should be served only if individuals from different households can maintain six feet of distance. Outdoors is safer than indoors, and seated, served meals or controlled buffets are safer than self-serve options. Ensure you have hand sanitizer and adequate food safety equipment (utensils, gloves, masks, etc.) available. 
  • Encourage attendees ahead of the event to bring and use masks outdoors. Have masks on hand to provide to staff and attendees who do not bring their own. Consider requiring masks at outdoor events if at least six feet of distance cannot be maintained between individuals from different households or between pods. 
  • Advise event staff and attendees to stay home if they have tested positive for COVID-19, are waiting for COVID-19 test results based on symptoms or exposure, have COVID-19 symptoms, or if they have had close contact with a person who has tested positive for or who has symptoms of COVID-19. 
  • Discourage attendees and staff from greeting others with physical contact (for example, handshakes). Include this reminder on signs about physical distancing. 
  • Ensure that you have adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene. Supplies include soap, water, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, a way to dry hands (e.g., paper towels, hand dryer), tissues, disinfectant wipes, masks (as feasible), and no-touch trash cans. 
  • Post signs in highly visible locations (for example, at entrances, in restrooms) that promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of germs by properly wearing a mask, physical distancing, and washing hands. 
  • Include messages about behaviors that prevent the spread of COVID-19 when communicating with staff, vendors, and attendees (such as on the invitation, on the event website, and through event social media accounts). 
  • Encourage attendees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. How to get a vaccine 
  • Make a plan beforehand for how compliance with the Presidential Health Directives will be monitored and ensured. Identify a single point of contact who will liaise with COVID Operations should the need arise.