Event mask policies got a little trickier this spring when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated people can resume normal activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing in most settings.
Meeting organizers who had stricter event mask policies in place had to rethink their health and safety protocols for attendees, sponsors and other stakeholders accordingly. Here is how three of them—The Incentive Research Foundation, Meeting Professionals International and Prevue—decided to handle it.
Event Mask Policies Relax: The Incentive Research Foundation 2021 Educational Invitational
Held June 2-5 at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, the IRF Educational Invitational, in accordance with federal guidance and the resort’s health and safety protocols, decided to make masks optional inside and out for those who are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated attendees still had to wear masks indoors, and IRF included social distancing in its room setups. It also provided PPE kits on check-in that included masks and hand sanitizer. While some meeting organizers decided to use the honor system, IRF required attendees to upload either proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days prior to the event, or proof that they were fully vaccinated. Both documents could be uploaded via the Vital Circle platform. It also required attendees to fill out a daily symptom survey and display a green checkmark to staff, and get a temperature check, before entering the event space bearing a wristband noting they had passed the health checks successfully. Anyone who didn’t pass the temperature check was required to go to the healthcare clinic sponsored by InHouse Physicians for follow-up and/or an onsite rapid COVID-19 test.
IRF also used onsite proximity contact-tracing devices, which attached to name badges and had to worn throughout the event. The devices, also provided by Vital Circle, measured the distance the device was from devices worn by other attendees, and the amount of time they were in proximity to each other. The organization was very clear on the limitations of the devices, which did not connect to the user’s mobile phone, track them via GPS, or record any biometric data. They measured proximity and duration of proximity only, the point being to ensure that, should anyone come down with COVID-19 at or immediately after the event, the organization would be able to trace and inform those who had been in close contact with the infected person.
Health and Safety Policies: Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress Surveyed First
MPI WEC, held June 15-17 at the CAESARS FORUM in Las Vegas, decided to take more of an honor system approach. When the Clark County Commission issued guidance on June 1 that closely followed the CDC’s example, MPI decided to survey its attendees to determine their comfort level with more relaxed health and safety protocols. After reviewing the changed federal and county guidance and survey results, MPI took a similar stance, allowing those who were fully vaccinated to go maskless at the event. It encouraged those who aren’t fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised — or just would feel more comfortable with added protection — to go ahead and wear a mask and social distance. Rounds at sessions also were set with three feet of distance between chairs, and attendees could choose a ribbon for their badge: A red ribbon meant keep your distance; a yellow ribbon meant elbow bumps are preferred; and a green ribbon meant hugs were OK. Attendees also had to fill out a symptom form each morning to get the OK, which was checked, along with their temperature, as they entered the event space each morning. They also had on-site medical staff in partnership with InHouse Physicians, ubiquitous signage and hand sanitizer stations.
Prevue’s Innovate! Summit Keeps It Conservative
Prevue’s Innovate! Summit, being held June 27-28 at the Eau Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla., is taking a similar approach to that of the IRF Invitational. It has dropped mask requirements for fully vaccinated attendees indoors and out, and masking for unvaccinated attendees when they are outside. Attendees are required to upload a copy of their vaccination card via the Vital Circle platform and sign a liability waiver prior to arrival, and to complete a daily symptom survey once on site. A green checkmark on the app showing they passed the daily screening is required for entry into the day’s program, along with a successful temperature check. Prevue chose Vital Circle’s Privacy First wearable proximity-tracing devices to ensure it could handle contact-tracing should anyone fall ill at the event
The event has been planned to ensure that social distancing is maintained in meeting rooms and at all meals and functions. Food is being served by attendants and there is a barista. For the opening cocktail reception, since it is difficult to maintain distancing in situations where alcohol is served, no food is being served and attendees are being offered masks by Your Social Mask, which include a space for a straw for their drinks. Attendees are taking their gourmet appetizers with them at the end of the event to enjoy in their rooms or with friends.