Summer is well on its way and we are all leaving, or about to leave, our Covid bunkers. Events are being rescheduled. The question everyone is asking is how do we go back to the pre-Covid normal or as close to it as possible? How do we host and attend multi-person live events (you know when you’re actually with other people rather than just seeing them on Zoom) while keeping staff and attendees safe?
On March 8, 2021, the Centers for Disease (“CDC”) issued a 12-page booklet (Yikes!) on hosting live events, On April 27, 2021, this guidance was updated to address hosting large or small live events. It was updated again on May 20, 2021. You can expect further guideline updates as time passes and the Covid infection rates change. The most up to date version can be found here
While the CDC’s original plan envisioned large events, the precautions apply to smaller events as well. For example, photographic shoots and television/ video production companies are requiring a Covid-compliance-officer to ensure that all Covid precautions are followed and enforce them when they are not. Whether you are a facilitator or your business puts on 1,000 plus person events, staying safe in a post-Covid world is top of mind for everyone. Speaking to a small business lawyer can ensure your event is compliant with current guidelines and regulations.
Some events are using Covid waivers and assumption of the risk agreements. You can find our prior post on the effectiveness of these agreements here.
There is also a question of whether you can (or should) require attendees and staff to be vaccinated, see our prior post on this question.
Regardless of the size of the event and vaccine status of the attendees, having a safe event means breaking down the responsibilities in CDC guidelines between your client, the venue and you. While the CDC still recommends that we avoid large gatherings, events are being scheduled and you have to weigh the risk/benefit of putting one on.
The CDC breaks safe events into three categories: Pre-event planning, during the event and post-event assessment. My mentor, eWomen Network founder Sandra Yancey, has always insisted on a “Plan, Do, Review” protocol and the CDC agrees. In fact, the part that often gets short-shrift, the “Review,” is now more critical than ever. And it takes more planning and more people to get your event done. Negotiate your contract with these responsibilities in mind and clearly state who is responsible for what tasks. Even if you are facilitating a mastermind at the client’s site, you’ll need to ensure whether your client or you will be responsible for the following Covid safety tasks. Some of the highlighted tasks from the CDC recommendations are:
- Determine risk level based on type of event.
- Establish emergency protocols with the venue
- Designate a Covid Compliance team member.
- Develop specific criteria for cancellations or postponements
- Know if your attendees are local or traveling to attend
- Encourage good health practices and educate staff and attendees
- Create a quarantine zone
- Modify layout for social distancing
- Consider an outside venue
- Communicate the safety precautions and expectations to attendees
- During the Event
- Keep PPE in stock and available & ensure cleanliness standards are met
- Conduct temperature screenings and monitor for symptoms
- Stagger and limit attendance times for larger events when possible
- Communicate who the Covid Compliance Officer is and where that person can be found
- Post signs to encourage distancing and safe practices
- Limit numbers in restrooms
- CLEAN per CDC guidance
- Host a Post-Event meeting with team to discuss issues and lessons learned
- Ask for feedback from participants and staff
- Look for agencies and partners to improve future events
- Continue to monitor emergency preparedness resources and training.
I’ve talked to groups of facilitators who ask, “I conduct in house trainings at my client sites, not large events. How do the CDC guidelines impact me?”
Simple. Even if you aren’t trying to host a 1,000-person event, the CDC has laid out what best practices and reasonable precautions it believes are necessary to host safe events. Not every item in the large event list will be an issue at all events. Most will. Even the “small” family related gathering guidelines suggest things like bringing your own food, cups, utensils and condiments, and having conversations with the guest prior to the event to set expectations for a safe gathering.
Remember, the CDC still recommends masks for those who aren’t “fully vaccinated” even though some states have rolled back the mask mandates or never had them. If you want your guests or attendees to be masked (even those who are fully vaccinated), then you need to communicate this to them. Also, it’s very likely that the CDC guidelines will become the standard for a “duty of care” and failing to meet this duty may open you up to negligence claims. See my post on negligence.
So, whether you are facilitating a 5-person workshop to assist co-workers in diffusing workplace tensions or hosting a 1,000-person event, you should ensure someone is responsible for compliance with the CDC guidelines. Discuss these guidelines with your client and determine who is responsible for each task. If you need to provide the Covid Compliance Officer, then you need to negotiate your fee with this additional cost in mind. For a larger event, the venue may be assisting with some of the requirements. But, none of those actions will occur if the needed discussions don’t happen.
We can hold safe events in a post-Covid world with a bit of planning and lots of discussions. When planning an event or planning to attend one:
- Determine which guidelines apply;
- Determine who is responsible for compliance with each requirement;
- Communicate these responsibilities to your client, the venue and the attendees; and
- Designate a person who is responsible for compliance and can respond to compliance questions.
You can hold Covid safe events. If you’re unsure of how to meet these obligations or would like assistance with any other compliance matter from a small business lawyer, please contact Nancy at N D Greene PC at: