Masking Up at Meetings: Industry Pro Joan Eisenstodt Weighs In

maskingPlanners should not let their guards down when it comes to risk and contingency planning in these volatile times. Masking up at indoor meeting spaces may no longer be optional.

As COVID spikes once again, it’s clear that the vaccination honor system isn’t working. The uber contagious Delta variant is raging. There are no enforceable national public health measures. Some are calling for renewed CDC guidelines. Locales in California and elsewhere are re-implementing masking requirements. Is it time for planners to reconsider meeting safety protocols once again? We checked in with veteran industry pro Joan Eisenstodt, principal of Eisenstodt Associates, for answers.

Prevue: Given the highly infectious Delta variant and skyrocketing COVID numbers in states where vaccination rates are low, how concerned are you about masking up at meetings?

Eisenstodt:I believe this is a crisis and we are still being “head in the sand” about the risks. The situation keeps changing as LA County and other destinations around the US are re-instituting indoor masking. My clients are all over the map about best practices at meetings. I’m hearing that hotels are continuing to keep staff masked to ensure their safety.”

How is a group setting vulnerable to spreading the virus, and what challenges does this create?

“Meeting participants, hotel/venue staff, contractors, and other hotel guests can all be the person who transmits COVID in a group setting. And it’s possible people wouldn’t even know, because they can be asymptomatic and still transmit it. We also don’t know what we will do if a person gets sick during a meeting. Do we isolate that one person, or do we isolate everyone in the group? And who pays?”

Could a hotel/venue, host organization or meeting planner be held liable if someone contracts COVID during an event where a) vaccination status wasn’t required and b) masking wasn’t required?

As long-time industry attorney Jeff King said, “It doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong, you can still be sued.” In my opinion, it is better to take precautions, such as masking, than to allow risks. If lawsuits do occur, mitigation will be more favorable if the group has followed safety protocols.”

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