Reopening Events in a COVID-transition World

I don’t think it will be fair to call the world we’re in post-pandemic any time soon - but we’re hitting a level of vaccination and mitigation that might be effective to go on living our lives more reasonably pretty soon. In the US, at least, we’ve hit a level of COVID-fatigue and public policy of open venues where events are run for many other parts of our lives: lots of us are back at work in offices and stores; my state went back to full-capacity allowed in most categories of stores and restaurants (although requiring masks and distance, which necessarily reduces capacity in some of those) a few weeks ago, when we were only at 20-something percent with a first shot and teens percent fully vaccinated. This seemed like a wildly unwise policy decision to me, but I don’t make policy decisions, and I generally don’t get to argue about them in places larger than a dinner party.

That said, this particular decision means it’s feasible I might legally be allowed to go to a dinner party (indoor event smaller than 25 people) or a munch (indoor event smaller than 25 people at a restaurant under capacity) sometime soon. I probably won’t, because I’m nervous and chronically ill and not yet vaccinated (my state is rolling out the vaccine by age and I’m young, so see you in public later!). But, it does mean something interesting for event planners, a lot of whom I’m acquainted with in my local community, who have some interesting decisions to make.

Do they keep running events digitally until their event’s reach has exceeded herd/community immunity (~80% vaccination among adults)? Do they start planning sooner than that and run things outside until that benchmark? Do they run events indoors as soon as it’s legal but require registration to follow legal limits carefully? All of these are valid but have very serious pros and cons. I’m in favor of digital munches and ‘events’ and outdoor get-togethers with individuals until we’ve got community immunity; but I’m only one person and only host occasional events.

I can see how running events digitally is good for my classes and munches because:

  • They’re generally pretty intimately sized, so we all fit in a zoom room anyway;

  • I have a professional account to use regardless of how long they run;

  • They keep munches casual in my opinion;

  • It removes the nerves potentially involved in meeting in person for non-vaccinated people and therefore makes the event more accessible;

  • While digital events often charge less, for some classes we can charge, and this can support venues that need to try to make up shortfalls they’re incurring this year.

  • It makes the event accessible for folks who may have disabilities, obvious or not, that are inherent in accessing the venue.

I can, however, see how it can be less good for my classes and munches in terms of:

  • Some people learn and listen better when making eye contact;

  • We all miss in person socializing!;

  • I can see what sections of a class are being better understood more accurately;

  • If a munch is based around a location or restaurant, returning to it certainly feels like a return to normal and not doing so definitely reinforces how we aren’t there yet.