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UPDATED: What Meeting & Event Professionals Need to Know About the Coronavirus

Kaitlyn Tatulli |

Asian woman sneeze with maskThis post was originally published on February 10, 2020 and will  be updated routinely as new information about the coronavirus becomes available.

On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern since more than 100,000 people have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, and more than 4,000 people have died. With countries across the globe banning flights to and from China, the coronavirus is affecting the meeting and events industry in a big way.

To help industry professionals understand the virus and protect themselves, their organizations, and their attendees, we’ve created this guide to everything meeting and event professionals need to know about the coronavirus. This also may be good information to share with your attendees or stakeholders if you feel your event is at risk, so feel free to pass it along!

What is the Coronavirus?

On January 30, the a family of viruses that include the common cold, SARS and MERS. The current coronavirus is called the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The outbreak has been linked to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, which suggests the virus can spread through animal to person and person to person.

How is the Coronavirus Spread?

The CDC reports that there is a lot still unknown about how the 2019-nCoV, the new coronavirus, spreads. What is currently known about how the virus spreads is based on other coronaviruses. The virus can be transmitted by:

  • Person-to-person spread (6 feet)
  • Air by coughing and sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands (the virus lives on surfaces for 3 to 12 hours).
  • Rarely, fecal contamination

What are the Coronavirus Symptoms?

Man with a fever and a thermometer on his mouth isolatedThe CDC reports that at this time it believes symptoms of 2019 nCoV may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses. Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

How to Prevent Coronavirus at Events

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a guide specifically for events concerning the virus that planners should download and review.

According to Associations Now, some of these tips include:

  • Establish contact with local and national public health authorities as they relate to your event.
  • Provide attendees with information on proper hand hygiene and coughing etiquette and how to access local healthcare if they need it.
  • Have a plan if attendees exhibit symptoms consistent with the virus during the event, including how they will be transported to a treatment facility.
  • Consider providing isolation facilities at the venue for participants who develop symptoms and must wait for a health assessment.

The guide also asks planners of large events to think about crowd density and venue layout, the number of participants coming from countries or areas affected by the COVID-19 outbreak within 14 days of their event, and the age of attendees (since the elderly seem to be more affected )when it comes to making critical safety decisions.

Planners should also practice and publicize The WHO's recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to, and transmission of, a range of illnesses, including the coronavirus. These recommendations include:

  • Frequently clean hands by using antibacterial hand wipes, hand sanitizer gels, or soap and water. When using soap or water, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissues away immediately and wash hands
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough
  • Stay home and avoid traveling if you are not feeling well or exhibit any coronavirus symptoms 
  • If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
  • When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals
  • The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

Those who have been recently traveling in highly effective areas such as China, Italy, Iran, etc. in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others (this includes staying home from work)

What if an Attendee Presents Coronavirus Symptoms?

Should anyone of your event attendees present symptoms during or after your business event, you should contact the local, national, and international public health departments and agencies for protocol advice.

Just as importantly, you must remain calm. Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) said, “Containing the spread of unnecessary panic is as important as stopping the virus itself.” Guevara continues in a late January statement that “quick, accurate and transparent communication is also crucial in order to contain panic and mitigate negative economic losses. Previous cases have also shown us that closing airports, cancelling flights and closing borders often has a greater economic impact than the outbreak itself.”

What Travel Restrictions are in Place?

Throughout China, travel has been widely restricted. Transport, including air, train, and buses, in and out of the city of Wuhan has been suspended. In addition, China has suspended flights, hotel sales for citizens and tour groups. The entire country of Italy is also on lockdown. Several other countries and local areas with high infection and exposure rates have also announced restrictions. Contact your event's local government agency for more information.

Instead of Cancelling, Let Aventri Help You Go Virtual: It's hard to deny that coronavirus is having a serious impact on the world and live events. Rather than cancelling your events altogether, save time and enjoy the flexibility of a fully integrated virtual event platform. Contact Us.

3 Ways to Host a Meeting or Event with the Coronavirus

1. Livestream Your Event

Facebook Live

If you choose to relocate your event, some attendees still might not be able to attend because of travel restrictions from the coronavirus. To ensure you don’t lose attendees to the coronavirus, livestream your relocated event. Attendees can register online for your live streaming event, attend your events workshops and sessions, and even participate in polls. Before your event, make sure you test your equipment so the day of broadcast you can confidently livestream your event.

2. Host Virtual Meetings

business people group have video meeting conference  at office

Although one of the things that make live meetings and events so valuable is that they allow people to meet face-to-face, when something like the coronavirus prevents that from happening, virtual meetings are a good alternative. Instead of canceling their meetings or events altogether, planners can host virtual meetings and decrease travel expenses by 30 percent. If you don’t already have a virtual meeting platform, check out these top ten online meeting platforms.

3. Increase Your Medical Security

illustration of set of hazardous symbol on grey background

Whether you’re hosting an event in a high-risk coronavirus area or simply want to ease coronavirus fears, increases your event’s medical security by building a solid crisis communication plan is key. But what are the ingredients to a great crisis communication plan? We’ve researched and outlined them below.

  1. Organize a dedicated management or emergency management team. Because your event staff will be the first responders during a crisis at your event, like a potential coronavirus case, having a dedicated crisis management team will elevate your event’s disaster preparedness to another level. This team will be laser-focused on making sure that your crisis plan is executed seamlessly when needed. You can also hire health professionals to be on-call at your event, stock your event with masks, gloves, and coronavirus testing kits.
  2. Collect emergency data from attendees. The volume of data that events, meetings, conferences, and trade shows produce and collect is increasing as more organizations become data-driven. If permitted by attendees, planners can use this data during crises to identify attendees and access important medical information (e.g. medical conditions, allergies to medications, etc.) to ensure they receive the safest, best care.
  3. Use push notifications through your mobile event app to communicate with attendees. Onsite communication is very important, both amongst event staff and with attendees, especially when potential cases of the coronavirus are a possibility at your event. Sending personalized push notifications directly to attendees’ cell phones is a great way to stay in constant contact with them and help them feel like they are up to date on everything that is happening at your event.

This Post was Written by Kaitlyn Tatulli

Kaitlyn Tatulli is a graduate from Fairfield University with majors in Digital Journalism and Psychology and minors in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Computer Science. Currently, she is receiving her MFA from Fairfield University. Kaitlyn...

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