Event protocols to follow under new COVID reopenings
Q: With the CDC's recent mask announcement and some areas reopening, how can you avoid throwing a COVID-19 superspreader event?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Protection is no longer recommending that people who are fully vaccinated wear a mask inside or outside regardless of crowd numbers or public spacing.
Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by local governments or businesses. Though this is a positive reflection of the number of individuals who have received the vaccine and its effectiveness, it raises the question, "How do you safely implement new guidelines based solely on the honor system (trusting that people are telling the truth about being vaccinated)?"
A recommendation for those planning larger events is to clearly inform guests of health precautions you will have in effect. Language noting precautions and event rules can be included in invitations as well as on signs placed throughout the facility.
For those who do not feel comfortable relying on the honesty of the public, err on the side of caution and wear a mask. To mitigate a recurrence of COVID-19, it is imperative that we are all on one page to have a positive impact on our medical future.
Dr. Christopher Colbert, assistant emergency medicine residency director and professor of clinical emergency medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago
A: With the news of the mask regulations being lifted for those who are vaccinated, it remains vital to strategically implement rules for guests to abide by to keep everyone safe.
Here are a few ideas that I include at each event to ensure that guests are able to celebrate in a safe and stress-free way:
Mask wearing: Although mask requirements are being lifted, it is still imperative to wear a mask when in a large group of people. The risk of contracting COVID-19 is far less when wearing a mask.
Hand washing and hand sanitizing: At past events, my team and I have required guests to wash their hands upon entry and also have encouraged them to use strategically placed hand sanitizer stations.
Food served by waitstaff: Buffets pose a risk for transmission with so many hands touching the same surface. Requiring that waitstaff serve and pass all food and drinks lowers the risk of possible infection.
Tables and chairs: The CDC recommends that parties maintain a distance of 6 feet between guests. By positioning chairs and tables apart, guests are easily able to abide by these recommendations.
Requiring proof: The best way to ensure that the event won't be a superspreader is to require all guests to have negative COVID-19 tests, proof of vaccination or both.
Courtney Ajinça, event planner