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by Kait Shea
When the industry bounces back (and it will), having a solid on-site health security strategy will be paramount. And we’re not just talking about placing some extra hand sanitizer stations around the event footprint and calling it a day. Whether it’s a live experience for two or 2,000, robust policies and procedures will need to be in place to ensure the safety of attendees. To get more perspective, we sat down with Jonathan Spero, M.D., ceo at InHouse Physicians who offered his tips for an effective health security plan in a post-lockdown world.
1. Implement a Bullet-proof Disinfection Plan
Disinfecting surfaces is a no-brainer when it comes to cleaning protocols, but the method and frequency of disinfection is what matters—and working with the venue is crucial to developing a strategy.
“It’s going to need to be more than just a nightly cleaning that you approve,” says Spero. “You have to sit down with the venue and say you need more details on the cleaning protocol. What disinfectants are you using? Are you just using regular Lysol cleaner, or are you using a disinfectant? Because there’s a difference—one works to kill the virus, one doesn’t… But then the frequency, too. Is nightly cleaning enough? I don’t think so. If you’re in breakout sessions and you’re going in and out of them all day long, and different people are using the different tables, you would want them cleaned more frequently.”
2. Administer Fever Screens
Once upon a time, fever-screening at events was seen as too invasive. In a post-coronavirus world, it will likely become the norm, at least in the short-term. Spero says that even though people can be asymptomatic, the most common symptom is still fever. And with fever screens comes the need for additional staffers.
“When we first start out, especially the events in June, July, August, maybe even September, temperature checks will be really common. And there are logistics around that,” he says. “If you have a thousand people, you need a lot of staff to do those temperature checks and they need to be in personal protective gear if they’re going to get close and personal. You’re going to have to work with a vendor that has access to PPE and infrared thermometers, and it’s not going to be cheap.”
3. Develop a Comprehensive Communications Strategy
Attendees will likely be fearful entering events when they return, and that means a thorough communications plan needs to be intact. Spero even suggests appointing a dedicated COVID-19 communications strategist. Part of that plan will involve creating a system to respond rapidly to attendees’ questions as well as creating extensive frequently asked questions pages.
“And then you have to have some communication strategies in place about what happens if all of a sudden, we send three people to the urgent care and they come back with a COVID diagnosis? What’s our communication strategy then?” he says. “You should be building that communication strategy and the content well before anything like that would happen.”
4. Ensure Access to Professional Medical Care
It may sound obvious, but ensuring attendees have access to medical services needs to be part of a planner’s checklist, Spero says. Whether it’s on-site medical care, a partnership with a local, trusted urgent care organization or even a telemedicine solution, healthcare at events needs to be readily available and easily accessible. And these services will be in high demand.
“Whatever option they choose, there should be the ability to provide medical evaluation for flu-related illnesses. There should be the ability to prescribe medications because not all flu-related illnesses are related to COVID-19,” Spero says. “Testing is really important right now, so the urgent care and on-site medical services can offer rapid COVID testing. But that’s not going to be available via telemedicine.”
5. Create Opportunities for Self-care
The biggest defense against any virus is a healthy immune system, making self-care critical. Incorporating wellness elements into events is one way to help attendees reduce stress and stay healthy.
“It’s probably fair to say that we’re exposed to dozens or maybe even hundreds of viruses when we go to work and we go to the meetings, but we don’t get sick. And why don’t we get sick? It’s because we have this magical immune system that we take for granted. And we abuse it—we go to meetings, we drink at night, we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t take time out to exercise or meditate,” Spero says. “So planners need to say, ‘Hey, you know what, we understand that the biggest defense from COVID is your immune system, so we are going to offer some wellness programming because we want to make sure your immune system is at a level that is necessary to protect you.”