Though much of the population is acting as if COVID is over, the Omicron subvariant BA.5 (and, to a lesser extent, BA.4) is creating yet another massive wave — the seventh of the pandemic and the third since the arrival of Omicron. A planner’s only defense these days is testing, overtaking the previously well-established proof-of-vaccination as a way to ensure attendee health and safety.
Not only are people who have already contracted the original Omicron vulnerable when it comes to BA.5, so are the vaccinated, since vaccines—even boosters—while highly effective at protecting against severe illness, are not protecting people against catching the virus. That’s why testing is the new front line of defense.
“Everyone across the board now is testing,” ays Amanda Schleede, Founder and CEO of Attend Safe, which provides health and safety measures including vaccine and test verifications, contact tracing technology, and at-home and on-site tests and COVID testing services for event organizers. “Regardless of vaccination status, have everyone test ideally 24 hours before they leave for the event, or at least when they check in at the hotel or pick up their badges on site.”
Attend Safe can send the highest rated home test kit to attendees, who can submit their results to the web-based app to get the green light to attend. “I won’t say it’s cheap, but it is an inexpensive way of ensuring your attendees are COVID-free upon arrival.”
Schleede also recommends that, for longer duration meetings, planners mandate that everyone at the event be tested 48 hours into the meeting to detect those whose viral load may not yet have been high enough to test positive pre-event or when they first arrived. It also is a good idea to have on-site testing available throughout the event so anyone who starts to feel ill can easily test.
She adds that some event organizers are providing home test kits to all departing attendees. “Think of it almost as a thank-you or departure gift,” she says. “It provides a level of comfort and lowers anxiety, especially for attendees who are going home to unvaccinated children or spouses.”