Should I cancel my event due to the Coronavirus?

We’ve received a few questions on the effect the Coronavirus (COVID-19) may have on events, and hope this update will be helpful as you consider the impact of the virus on your projects.

The most asked question relates to cancelling an event due to the virus. Let’s put this in perspective. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention the 2019-2020 U.S. Flue Season has 32,000,000 to 45,000,000 illnesses - yes, that is millions -, with 14,000,000 to 21,000,000 medical visits, 310,000 to 560,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 to 46,000 deaths. As of the latest update, there have been 43 COVID-19 cases with 17 hospitalizations and 2 deaths with 10 states reporting cases in the U.S. a. In general, events don’t get cancelled due to the flu and cold season.

Since there no specific antiviral treatment recommended for COVID-19 at this time, this situation may look a bit scary; however, we don’t think you should panic and cancel your event before considering the following questions and actions.

  • Where is your audience coming from? Are they local vs. regional vs. international? Are they coming from areas where the virus is active? If local or regional, and there are no known cases, then we would generally not worry. If international, are they coming from high-risk areas?

  • Know your audience? Does your audience travel a bit and where? Is your audience generally at risk? The virus poses the highest risk to people over 60 and those with underlying conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer. b

  • Have clear communications with your participants pre-event. Let them know to not attend if they feel under the weather. The same counts for event staff, vendors and venue staff.

  • Should you worry, work with your venue to wipe down all surfaces between meals and sessions with disinfecting products.

  • Share best practices on handwashing, include a flyer in your attendee kit and post them in washrooms. The CDC has a great resource here, or download the handwashing sign in English and Spanish to share.

  • Add sanitizer stations at all entry points, the registration desk, and at entries of sessions and meal functions. Provide tissue boxes and trash receptacles with lids (with foot pedal if possible).

  • Provide your attendees with a package of wipes and a small bottle of hand sanitizer in their registration kit. Think of it as another sponsorship opportunity.
  • Have a clear emergency plan for your event – which you should have for all your events anyway – that covers the removal of a person who may fall ill. Work with the venue on policies they may have already in place.

To stay up to date on COVID-19 we recommend you follow the latest guidelines on the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention website here.

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