Whether planning a conference, meeting, or other event, there are steps to take before, during, and after an outbreak. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detailed recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19 at large community events and other gatherings.
Before an Outbreak: Plan Ahead
Work with the local health department and other partners to develop a plan. Clearly identify roles, responsibilities, and decision-making authority.
Develop flexible policies. Individuals need to stay home when they are sick, if they need to care for a sick household member, or to care for children if schools are closed. Identify critical functions and cross-train staff.
Develop ﬂexible policies or plan for remote participation.
Have extra supplies of soap, hand sanitizers, and tissues on hand.
Plan ways to separate and care for participants and/or staff who get sick during an event.
Identify actions to take if an event needs to be postponed or cancelled.
Create an emergency communication plan. Update and distribute timely and accurate information to everyone who needs it (staff, participants, suppliers, vendors, and key stakeholders).
Stay informed about the local COVID-19 situation. Get up-to-date information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state/local public health officials. Be aware of school and business closures in your area.
During an Outbreak: Steps To Take
Work with the local health department and community partners to implement response plans.
Update partners, stakeholders, staff, and participants regularly and continue to promote healthy habits.
Address the potential fear and anxiety that may result from rumors or misinformation.
Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.
Increase space and limit contact between participants (avoid handshakes).
If someone at the event develops symptoms, immediately isolate them and give them a clean disposable face mask to wear. Note that face masks are intended to protect others, not the person wearing them.
Separate sick participants and staff and call for medical advice.
Consider alternatives for staff and participants who are at high risk for complications from respiratory disease, including older adults and those with chronic health conditions.
If necessary, take steps to cancel or postpone the event. Communicate plans to all participants.
Should You Postpone or Cancel Your Event?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following considerations:
The overall number of participants
The number of participants who are at greater risk of more serious illness after contracting COVID-19, including older adults and those with certain chronic health conditions that place them at higher risk for COVID-19
Will participants be able to stay 6 feet apart?
The potential economic impact on participants, attendees, staff, and the larger community
The level of transmission in the local community and the level of transmission in the areas from which participants will travel
After an Outbreak: Follow-Up
Discuss and document lessons learned. Gather feedback from staff, participants, community partners, and stakeholders.
Improve preparedness plans accordingly.
Maintain community partnerships. Participate in community-wide emergency preparedness activities.
Test and update plans regularly.
Updated March 24, 2020
The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and the Alliance for Aging Research developed this resource on COVID-19 for older adults and people with underlying health conditions.
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