WordPress’ Community Team has been discussing the return to in-person events since early December 2020, and has landed on an idea that would allow local meetup organizers to determine readiness using a COVID-19 risk-assessment checklist. This would enable organizers to restart meetups when it is safe for their communities, instead of applying a blanket global policy.
Countries like Australia, New Zealand, The Bahamas, Iceland, and Vietnam, are a few examples of locations that are doing a decent job containing the virus. In contrast, the United States logged more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day this week, pushing the daily average to over 2,700. While the situation remains bleak for many areas of the world, vaccines are rolling out to vulnerable populations, albeit slowly and with a few snags.
In the previous discussion that happened in early December, WordPress lead developer Dion Hulse shared some feedback from Australian organizers who have been eager to restart their meetups.
“One of the problems faced in Australia (and probably NZ & Taiwan too) has been the blanket worldwide restrictions companies have put in place,” Hulse said. “Australia/NZ have been lucky, the pandemic has been successfully contained – Australia has seen less than 30k cases this year, and NZ 2k cases. To put that in context, the USA has recorded more (detected) cases in 3 hours today than Australia did all year, and more in 30 minutes than NZ.”
Hulse said a few Australian meetup groups were denied the go-ahead for restarting because of the global restrictions, which has “led to the abandonment of meetups once again (as online meetups have simply not worked here, as most people can still go out in person, so there’s been no major push from most Australians to the online platforms like elsewhere).”
The Community Team’s proposal for a checklist takes these more unique situations into consideration and allows organizers to move forward in areas where public health measures have adequately curbed the spread of the virus. A few example checklist items include the following:
- Is your country’s (or state’s) average positivity rate over the past 28 days under 4%?
- In the past 28 days, has your country or area’s basic reproduction number stayed under 1?
- In the past 14 days, have there been under 50 new cases per 100,000 people reported?
- Does your local government allow for in-person events?
- If there is a cap on the number of people who can meet at a time, will you as an organizer follow this guideline?
Contributor feedback so far includes recommendations for dealing with violations of the guidelines and assessing the need for contact tracing in case meetup attendees are exposed during an event. Cami Kaos recommended that the team share a list of locations that have already been vetted using the checklist and have not met requirements.
“My hope is that this would reduce a lot of duplicated time and effort for areas that we already know aren’t yet, by the standards we’re setting, safe,” Kaos said. “It would save time and disappointment for organizers hoping to meet in person and also contributor time and energy for those deputies who will vet the applications to hold in-person events.”
Since the virus is mutating and countries are adapting in different ways, the situation can change rapidly, so organizers would need to be prepared to roll back to online events if conditions for safe meetups deteriorate. WordCamps are still out of the question for the time being, but the Community Team is seeking feedback on the proposal by January 15, 2021, including additions to the checklist and recommendations for public health resources that could aid in guiding the process.