Overcoming the risk of Covid-19 is the real dealbreaker for event safety in 2020, but what does handling this threat entail and what is the most effective strategy for doing so without neglecting other security concerns?
All the pre-Covid security concerns are still relevant, but the ongoing pandemic has pressured planners to factor in a range of compounding Covid security concerns in order to contain the virus.
For example, if planners decide to implement both a reliable screening process and a rigorous contact-tracing system, they will have to consider the data security risks that come with collecting and tracking sensitive personal health information.
In this article, we take a close look at the logistical challenges that come with setting up an ironclad safety plan from the event’s start to finish — and beyond.
What Does It Take to Run a Safe Event?
The good news is that new technologies are being developed and refined at an unprecedented rate, but they need to be part of a comprehensive safety plan that keeps the bigger picture in mind.
More and more accurate testing options have received approval from the FDA and other regulatory health agencies, just as increasingly thorough contact-tracing options have become available.
What are the practical considerations that go along with implementing testing and tracing? One such consideration is data security. If event planners are testing people, associating results with registrants, and tracking potential contact exposure, they will need to be vigilant about protecting the privacy of their attendees.
We spoke with Connectus Global CEO Mike Anderson and CMO David Bukvic about the company’s Citizen Care Pod real-time location system (RTLS), which helps to address these multi-layered security concerns. Anderson outlined the four “pillars” of his company’s strategy:
1. Data and privacy around health information
These pillars function as both a list of priorities and a step-by-step guide for implementing a testing and contact tracing system.
Data, Privacy, and Consent: Securing Health Information at Events
If event planners want to test attendees and follow-up with a contact tracing system, they will have to think as much about securing legal consent and protecting data as they will about accurate, scalable testing solutions. Along with a test booking process, step one should include:
- keyboard_arrow_right A declaration and waiver of liability. Attendees declare that they are aware of and fully acknowledge both the risks of transmission and the limitations of safety measures
- keyboard_arrow_right A consent form. Beyond securing consent to collect the attendee’s personal health information, planners should clarify exactly how this information will be gathered, tracked, and stored
If the need for testing causes the check-in process to become protracted, we can expect event tech developers to begin offering streamlined solutions. Connectus Global, for example, has paired a turnkey onsite testing facility (minus staff) with an app that manages consent, results delivery, and check-in.
Screening at Events
There are various testing options available now, but antigen tests are fast emerging as the most practical option for events: While slightly less accurate than PCR tests, their fast turnaround time provides the expediency needed for an on-site screening process to run effectively.
Connectus Global, however, is taking a two-pronged approach. Since antigen tests sometimes return false positives, anyone with a “non-negative” test result will be given a PCR test to confirm the diagnosis. This strategy helps to avoid the inconvenience and cost that might be associated with an unnecessary quarantine.
If the event will be hosting attendees from out of town, planners might also want to clarify who will be responsible for covering attendee expenses if anyone tests positive and needs to be quarantined in a hotel for two weeks.
Covid Hygiene and Sanitization
A set of recent live event experiments in Germany has provided some hard data to back up the growing consensus around effective health and safety measures. The top priorities are:
- keyboard_arrow_right Enforcement of social distancing and reduced occupancy numbers
- keyboard_arrow_right Maximal ventilation and enforced mask wearing
- keyboard_arrow_right Disinfection of high-touch surfaces
A major challenge when it comes to Covid containment measures is compliance, not just in terms of individuals who reject the rules for whatever reason but because they can be difficult to follow in practice. The German study revealed that entry and exit points are high contact areas. It can be difficult to avoid some degree of close proximity to others in lines, entryways, and onsite thoroughfares.
One way we can expect technology to assist in enforcing social distancing rules is through wearables that can track each attendee’s movement and proximity to others, alerting them when they get too close to another person.
As ventilation is also critical for avoiding potential spread through aerosolized viral particles, event planners will need to consider the type and quality of their venue’s ventilation system. What are the patterns of air circulation? How frequently is the air replaced?
In this context, ‘oversight’ entails tracking where your attendees go during the event, and following up with them afterwards to ensure that all potential cases of transmission are accounted for.
Connectus Global’s system uses an RTLS that tracks attendee movements with a 12-inch (30-centimeter) range of accuracy. These movements can be observed in real time within a 3D simulation of the venue, and contact between attendees is tracked in terms of both duration and proximity.
If an attendee later tests positive, the event organizer can warn anyone who came into close contact with the infected individual during the event. This adds a layer of reassurance that could be pivotal to the viability of events, particularly considering the 48-hour testing blindspot during which an attendee might have become infected without testing positive. As Mike Anderson points out, “Just doing an onsite test is a single snapshot in time that doesn’t really support allowing large-scale events to reopen.”
This kind of system will also give event planners hard data to evaluate—and hopefully prove—the safety of their events. As an added bonus, the RTLS devices could also serve other risk-management priorities like coordinating the flow of traffic during an emergency evacuation and making trespassers easier to identify.
If there’s anything that Covid-19 has taught the event industry, it’s that no single safety measure can be considered in a vacuum. Data and privacy protections need to work alongside health screening and contact tracing, just as social distancing and masking policies need to go hand-in-hand with reduced occupancy numbers and optimized ventilation.