Proposal: Decision making checklist for safe, in-person meetups

Thanks again to everyone who participated in the discussion about how the WordPress Community can return to in person events. As a quick recap, there were a few takeaways from that discussion:

  • Many areas around the world are still unsafe for in-person events at this time. However, there are countries that have been successful in controlling the spread of COVID-19. 
  • In addition to communities following local government ordinances, organizers have voiced a strong preference to rely on reputable public health authorities to help assess risk.

Given the extraordinary circumstances, it seems that a COVID-19 risk-assessment checklist is the most effective way to help community organizers around the globe determine whether, and how, it will be safe to hold in-person meetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through https://www.meetup.com/. A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on meetup.com will help you find options in your area. events. 

Summary of Proposal

The proposal is that the Community Team create a procedure for meetup organizers to use before deciding whether or not to host an in person meetup, and one that organizers can use leading up to the event. Organizers will be asked to complete the following steps to understand if their community can host in person meetups or not: 

  1. Review updated data from reputable global and/or local health authorities: This could be global resources, to more regional or local organizations that provide information on positivity rates, number of cases, etc.
  2. Complete an “In-person Meetup Decision Checklist”: Using data from the health authorities, along with knowledge of local ordinances, organizers answer some questions that help decide whether or not the community can meet in person or not. 

Read on to explore what this could look like in greater detail!

Global and/or local health authorities

The Community Team could pull together a list of public health authorities and examples of local resources that organizers can look to for data such as positivity rates, number of cases, etc. If no currently listed health authority applies to that community, the organizer can recommend another resource that provides that data for review.

Here are some examples of health authorities that provide such data:

In-Person Meetup Decision Checklist

This checklist will enable organizers to apply health data and local ordinance as part of their decision making process. It will also help organizers understand if their community can meet in person by the WordPress community’s standards. The checklist would include questions or like:

  1. Is your country’s (or state’s) average positivity rate over the past 28 days under 4%?
  2. In the past 28 days, has your country or area’s basic reproduction number stayed under 1?
  3. In the past 14 days, have there been under 50 new cases per 100,000 people reported?
  4. Does your local government allow for in-person events?
  5. If there is a cap on the number of people who can meet at a time, will you as an organizer follow this guideline?
  6. If there is a cost associated with your venue, is that fee fully refundable or transferable to another date?* 
  7. Does your venue allow for safe social distancing practices
  8. Does your venue have cleaning protocols in place to sanitize the space between uses?
  9. Are you and other organizers willing to enforce the use of masks, hand sanitization, and social distancing, as recommended in your country or area?
  10. In order to use local data to predict the safety of attendees, in-person events are required to be open only to residents of your immediate area. Are you and other organizers willing to enforce this expectation?
  11. Are you and other organizers ready to require RSVP in the Meetup.com, or to gather attendee contact lists in some other way?

In order to have an in-person event, the organizer must be able to answer “yes” to ALL these questions. 

*At this time, WordPress Community Support will not be able to cover the costs of a meetup venue. If a venue deposit isn’t refundable or transferable to another date, due to rising infection rates, another venue should be found. 

One additional challenge presented by COVID-19 is that circumstances can change quickly. I sincerely hope this does not happen, but communities that are deemed safe will need to be prepared to move back to online events if the local situation changes for the worse. As such, it may be prudent for organizers to review the checklist up to three times: once before planning the event, before announcing the event, and once again the day before or day of the event. In addition to this system of double checking, all planned in-person events should have a simple backup plan should they need to pivot to an online event at the last minute.

But what about WordCamps?

As much as returning to in person WordCamps would be incredible, given the amount of travel across greater distance, longer length of time together, and larger gathering size, it does not seem prudent to return to WordCamps just yet. The Community Team will continue to review this decision on a quarterly basis. 

Next Steps

Can you please share your feedback by next Friday, January 15?

  • What is your opinion of this proposal?
  • Are there other global, regional, or local health authority resources that you review for regularly updated COVID-19 data?
  • What other questions should be added to the checklist?
  • Are there any safety concerns that are not addressed in this proposal?

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. The WordPress community continues to do its best to move forward, and together we can do so safely!

Many thanks to @camikaos, @nao, @jenniferswisher, @evarlese, @sippis, @courtneypk, @harishanker, @kcristiano, @kdrewien, @andreamiddleton for helping to write this post!