THE EVENT HORIZON. What Happens Next?

Is it too early to try and imagine what events will be like after the shelter-at-home orders have been lifted?

Probably. We’re hoping that question doesn’t age like milk. But there’s no harm in doing a bit of informed speculation. What else is going on right? So, here’s what we know:

1. We know that Los Angeles has extended shelter-at-home orders through May 15th as did the state of Vermont. Chicago and its home state of Illinois are poised to do so as well. The CDC’s recommendation of no live events with more than 50 people stands until May 15th as well. We strongly doubt an April 30th reopening is happening for most of the country. So basically, don’t expect live events of any size to happen before June.

2. We also know that the CDC also recommends anyone with pre-existing conditions making them more vulnerable to COVID-19 should avoid mass gatherings. This remains true even after stay-at-home orders are lifted. Some have suggested that any future gatherings this summer should be limited to ‘locals’ from within a certain radius since traveling to and from events is a great way to kick-off new outbreaks and stay-at-home 2.0.

3. Public health experts across the world are also anticipating future waves of COVID-19, and while strict stay-at-home orders and expanding medical infrastructure now will prevent things from getting this bad a second time, we should all be prepared for spontaneous cancellations or postponements of events based on localized outbreaks until a vaccine is widely available.

So broadly, these are the circumstances under which events this summer could take place.

Let’s say we can get small scale, local events that incorporate a significant virtual component going this summer. Anthony Fauci seems optimistic.  We’ve linked to this already, but here are the CDC’s mass gatherings guidelines that would frame any summer events. We recommend that anyone planning an event, or planning to attend an event this summer read them in full. 

OK, sidebar. I fully understand the gravity of what is being stated here, and I appreciate the lengths the CDC has gone to guide the events community but, for real, doesn’t the following sound like it was written by a robot trying to live among us and gain insider knowledge for the inevitable future robot uprising?

“Handshakes and ‘high-fives’ are often exchanged at meetings and sporting events, and these can be ways in which COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person. As a way of decreasing the social pressure to engage in these common behaviors, consider displaying signs (physical and/or electronic) that discourage these actions during the gathering.”

While the clinical description of high-fiving situations made me suspicious, the ‘physical and/or electronic’ parenthetical is a dead giveaway. Nice try robots! Be careful guys. The robots know we like to high-five and are susceptible to COVID-19. 

Anyway, back to it.

Now, along with the CDC recommendations for safe conduct at mass gatherings, there are a number of recommendations here for event planners. These include flexible sick-leave policies, refund policies for sick attendees, frequent sanitizing of surfaces, making sterile masks available, and enforcing social distance. Additionally, the CDC recommends that event planners maintain active communication with local public health officials and remain prepared to alter or postpone an event at a moment’s notice based on community health conditions. Any events management company worth its weight in 15-minute rapid tests needs to be on top of all of this for events in 2020, which is why Decibel has started working with a medical director and we will work in concert with their recommendations to protect the health of our staff and event attendees.

As of right now the CDC is not recommending temperature checks at gatherings. Nevertheless, Disney has publicly stated that checks with infrared thermometers are being considered to enter their parks. We also suspect this will become a mandatory entrance requirement to attend professional sporting events should those resume this summer as well. While we know that at least 25% of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, it stands to reason that measures like temperature checks will at least prevent some people from exposure to active cases and allow attendees to feel more at ease. 

We wish we could offer you clearer conclusions, dates and confidence but we are still some time away from a national reopening and new normal. We will inevitably have to address additional nuanced CDC recommendations and health requirements as the pandemic wanes but the big takeaway here is that we’re seeing a lot of reasons to be optimistic and enough information to begin preparing for what comes next.  

As always, reach out to us today if you’d like to begin planning what comes next.