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If you don’t want to read that far, here’s the tl;dr:
The WordPress community team is removing the barrier to organizing in-person meetupMeetupMeetup groups are locally-organized groups that get together for face-to-face events on a regular basis (commonly once a month). Learn more about Meetups in our Meetup Organizer Handbook. events for fully-vaccinated people, in places where vaccines are freely available.
Some commenters mistakenly thought that local organizers would be collecting health care data from group members, and expressed concern. It was clarified that while the community team would encourage local organizers to set the expectation that only fully-vaccinated people should attend in-person meetup events, no organizer should request or collect information from members about their vaccination status. Meetup events for fully-vaccinated people would operate on the honor system.
A question was raised around what should happen if organizers somehow discovered that someone who was not vaccinated, was attending in-person events intended for fully-vaccinated people. While it’s certainly possible that this will happen, I think it should be handled just like any other mismatch between expected behavior and actual behavior — with a private discussion to explain the expectation and a direct request that someone meet that expectation next time. Again, local organizers should not request or collect vaccination status information from members.
Some people shared deep concerns that this would result in a “two-tier” meetup program, dividing local communities between the vaccinated (meeting in-person) and unvaccinated (meeting online). It was pointed out that as vaccination rollout continues, transmission risk will inevitably fall. The research seems to support this, showing that vaccination is effective in “preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death.” (See also this example.)
Holding in-person meetupsMeetupMeetup groups are locally-organized groups that get together for face-to-face events on a regular basis (commonly once a month). Learn more about Meetups in our Meetup Organizer Handbook. for fully-vaccinated people would only be possible in local communities where vaccines are freely available to all. And when infection levels fall to a point that a local community would pass the safety checklist, then both vaccinated and unvaccinated people would be free to meet (with the appropriate precautions). So while I agree that it’s only a matter of time when fully-vaxxed-only meetups are a thing of the past, I do think it’s important to make that possible for our communities. If nothing else, it might encourage WordPress enthusiasts to get vaccinated as soon as they can! Organizers are welcome to include an online component to in-person gatherings if the event format and venue allow it.
Some tenured community organizers shared their support for this idea, and at least one person shared that they would not yet be comfortable with organizing in-person events, even for fully-vaccinated people. I think it’ll be important to share with organizers that local communities can continue to meet online, or organize online event series, for the foreseeable future — if we ever go back to an expectation that WordPress meetup groups meet in-person only (and I doubt that we will), then I think that will happen a long time from now.
When COVID made it unsafe to meet in person, WordPress event programs responded more quickly than many public health authorities were able to. In fact, many governments didn’t provide safety recommendations until long after WordPress had asked local organizers to refrain from gathering people in-person. It’s not unusual for governments to move slowly in response to new crises, but luckily our organization is a little more nimble.
As we all know, the world has spent more than a year responding to the pandemic, and vaccines continue to roll out globally. The WordPress global community teamGlobal Community TeamA group of community organizers and contributors who collaborate on local events about WordPress — monthly WordPress meetups and/or annual conferences called WordCamps. must eventually return to our previous expectation that local organizers will simply follow local laws and public health guidelines.
Many countries are still fighting a pitched battle against COVID, and not all of their governments are willing or able to set safe public health standards. For organizers in those countries, please know that the global WordPress community is concerned for your health and safety. You are welcome to continue to use the in-person safety checklist if it is helpful, even when all WordPress program-based limits on in-person gatherings are lifted globally. We trust our organizers to make wise choices, and hope to provide you all the tools you need to make those choices easier.
This proposal is somewhat contentious, and one of the ways I serve the community team is to make potentially-unpopular decisions. I am comfortable doing so in this case, as enough tenured, active members of the community team seem to agree with this proposal. I realize there are some on the team who do not agree, and I hope that these guidelines are flexible enough that you are able to disagree and commit in this case.
The WordPress community team is not expecting or requiring local organizers to organize in-person events for fully-vaccinated people — we’re simply removing the barrier to doing so. That barrier is removed only under certain conditions, though, so I want to communicate those clearly.
local public health authorities say people can gather in person, AND
vaccines are available for anyone who wants one in your region, THEN
Local community organizers can (if they want to) plan in-person meetup events for fully-vaccinated people, following local health guidelines!
Here’s a visualization of those conditions, in case it helps:
No organizer should request or collect information from members about their vaccination status.
Additional safety measures that go beyond local health guidelines are OK! Organizers should consider meeting outside, asking attendees to wear masks, or limiting attendance of indoor events.
Online meetup events can continue for the foreseeable future.
Keep in mind that we are still learning about the effectiveness of vaccines for people with weakened immune systems or against new variants of the virus. If there are meetup group members who feel uncomfortable going to in-person meetups but want to continue attending events, organizers can encourage and help people host online events.
Next Steps and Feedback
I’ll add the new guidance to all the appropriate places in the meetup organizer’s handbook, and write a summarized version of this decision for the next meetup newsletter. If you have questions, concerns, or feedback… please share them in a comment on this post!
Community Event Supporters, Program Supporters, and Program managers are a team of people from all over the world who support WordPress community events. They mentor, review applications, interview lead organizers, and generally keep events moving.