Plan for the worst
They say failure to plan is planning to fail, and never was this more true than when it comes to dealing with a positive test from a delegate during your event.
It’s really important that you have everything planned out ahead of time, so that when it does happen you simply put in place existing procedures, and you know exactly what you need to tell the delegate to do.
I should raise at this point that you could very easily create some resources on your website, and set up an email which will automatically send to any people in a specific segment, if you’re using Mautic. If you’re not, have this created somewhere (email client, mailchimp, etc) in draft form so that you can copy/paste or clone it and send it really quickly. I’ve included some templates below which you can modify as needed.
It should go without saying that first and foremost, the health and wellbeing of the delegate, yourself and your team must take priority, closely followed by the health and wellbeing of your other attendees / venue staff. If you have to prioritise, make it humans first, institutions and formal processes second.
Some of the things you might need to consider having documented are:
Formalities with the local authorities
- How do they get a formal confirmation (e.g. a PCR test administered by a healthcare professional) if they have tested positive on the lateral flow (antigen) test?
- Where do they go?
- What is the cost?
- How do they book?
- In some countries, the local authority has to book
- Sometimes the individual (or you) have to book
- Sometimes the insurance company will book it for them directly
- Who pays for the cost?
- How do they get there and back
- Consider that they might be feeling quite unwell and unable to walk long distances
- In some regions you cannot use public transport or taxis - check this!
- Pre-advise the attendees that they must have the capacity to pay for at least one private covid-19 test, maybe two in some countries, in the event that they attend and test positive - one for confirming the diagnosis (not generally covered by insurance) and one for the safe to return home test (sometimes covered by insurance but not always required - some will accept an antigen test and some countries don’t need this test) - as they may need to be done promptly, before the insurance case is opened (which will most likely require a positive covid-19 result obtained from a private clinic).
- Who do they need to notify (e.g. local health authorities, track and trace)
- Have the telephone numbers / website addresses that they need to use to report their positive test results
- If the country of your event has a track and trace system (notifying possible close contacts) ensure you know how to access it, and how it works. Help the delegate to note down interactions outside of the event that they may have had.
- If you are hosting an event in a country where attendees do not speak the native language, ensure you have a way to support the delegate with this process, or you know exactly which numbers they have to press in what order on the call operator stages.
- Sometimes a local number is required for communication. Consider having a pay as you go mobile phone with sufficient credit which can be used for this purpose - the delegate will not have a local number and you don’t want to keep having your phone busy with calls if you are busy running the event.
- Identifying potential close contacts
- Have a way to determine who the delegate has been in close contact with and the places they have visited during their time since leaving home - close contact is defined as more than 15 minutes and less than 2 metres distance.
- You, the delegate or track and trace (if it exists in your locality) should inform those places visited of the positive test and when they were in the venue so that the venue can take any actions necessary to safeguard their team and customers
- The people identified as close contacts should be privately informed of the positive case, and take an antigen test - they may want to take a PCR test (which is more sensitive). Ideally they should take a lateral flow (antigen) test daily before attending your event/leaving their accommodation for at least four days if the first test is negative.
- Strongly encourage (or mandate as you see appropriate) those who have been identified as close contacts, to take stronger precautions. Full FFP2/N95 mask wearing at all times, regular hand antibacterial application, and avoiding contact with others as much as is possible.
- If it is possible for those people to engage with the event virtually e.g. via a live stream, you may wish to encourage them to do so.
- You may wish to announce (AFTER you have privately informed all the close contacts) to the attendees that there has been a positive case (without sharing who, unless they give you consent to do so), and share what actions you are taking to make sure people are safe, explaining that all known close contacts have already been advised. Word spreads fast, it's better if it comes from you as the event organiser, in a clear and positive way, than through the rumour mill.
- What will you do to ensure that they can quarantine for the full duration required?
- Ensure you can extend the room booking for their accommodation (if a speaker or sponsor) or have some rooms on standby in case it’s attendees staying elsewhere who need to extend their stay - their accommodation might not be available after their check-out date
- Ensure attendees are aware of any mandatory quarantine periods before they attend, and ensure that they (if you’re not paying for the accommodation) can cover the cost of that extension in case their insurance requires them to pay upfront
- If the country where you’re hosting the event has quarantine hotels, familiarise yourself with the process of
- How it works moving into one,
- What the cost will be (usually covered by insurance, but make sure that attendees are aware that they might have to pay it upfront and claim it back in some countries/insurance policies)
- What food / drink / clothes washing / etc provisions are made
- Whether it is possible to send deliveries (e.g. a care package) to people staying there, if so, how
- Ensure that attendees are aware of the limitations of travel insurance - for example they will most likely need to pay for their food and drink, any costs associated with travel to/from tests, and in some cases for the tests themselves. This can quickly accumulate. Ensure they have a means of paying for this, whether through a company picking up the bill, or using their own money.
Show that you care
Testing positive in a (possibly) foreign country necessitating a quarantine period is a daunting prospect, even without the fact that your attendee is most likely going to get some degree of sick over the coming days.
The absolute worst thing you can do is just tell them to stay in their accomodation and get on with running your event, never to speak to them again and effectively abandoning them. This would really suck. Don’t do it.
A named ‘covid carer’ (or team of them)
Make sure you have someone, anyone, who has the specific task of keeping in touch and being a responsive point of contact for folks who might test positive during the event. They may not need to be called on, but if they are, they can take that burden off your shoulders as you’ll be super busy with keeping the rest of the event afloat.
Make sure that person has a dedicated event phone or are willing to use their own phone for this purpose, with a whatsapp/signal/etc account associated with it and enough credit to make all the calls that might be needed/means to top up (consider auto topup).
At a minimum, have them reach out to anyone who has tested positive once a day, just to check in and see how they are doing. Maybe even schedule a video call with the delegate. Just seeing another human face, and one who cares about your wellbeing, makes a huge difference when you’re in quarantine and all you’ve seen all day are the four walls and the TV.
A care package
This is not essential, but it is a nice touch. You could even ask your sponsors to consider providing some items you can include in it - as the attendee may not get the swag they would usually receive.
Some ideas for what you might consider including:
- Antibacterial gel
- Hand cream / lip balm
- Masks / plastic gloves
- Throat lozenges (some honey/lemon ones to soothe the throat and some with menthol to clear the nose!)
- Tissues (one big box of good quality tissues rather than cheap ones, their nose will thank you for it!)
- Vitamin C / Zinc high strength effervescent tablets
- Tea/Coffee/Herbal tea
- Slipper socks
- Event swag they might have missed out on
- Something to read
- Something to do - puzzle book, colouring book/sketch pad with pencils … anything to pass the time!
Here are some ideas for the kinds of things that might be helpful to send to delegates who have tested positive at your event. These are just some ideas, feel free to run with it and do your own thing, but whatever you do, please make sure you do prepare something!
When someone has just tested positive
Firstly let me say I’m so sorry to hear you’ve tested positive for covid-19 while you were attending <eventname>. We are here for you, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that you are taken care of during this time. Please do not feel guilty
We have put together lots of useful information so that we can navigate through this process together.
What you need to do
You should have already been advised to stay in your accommodation until we are able to organise a confirmatory test (if it hasn’t already been done) at a clinic, and to advise you of the next steps <check the rules on this - some places may not require a PCR but you probably need a formal clinic-diagnosis even if it’s an antigen test, for the insurance providers>. Please do not leave your accommodation for any reason, you should only leave on the advice of the local health authorities and generally this will only be for the purposes of getting a test.
The first thing we need to do at the event is to try to limit the spread to anyone else.
If you could please reply to this email with
- A list of people who you have had close contact with since leaving home (close contact being 15 minutes or more, within 2 metres of distance)
- Any places you have visited during your time here - for example coffee shops, meals out, etc - this will help us to make sure that they are notified in case they need to take additional measures to keep their team and customers safe
This will help us to make sure that those people can take extra precautions and get more regular testing.
<insert information about local authorities / procedures / how to get the formal covid test done>
We will be dropping you off a care package shortly (today or tomorrow) with a few essentials.
You should make contact with your travel insurance company and let them know that you’ve tested positive for covid-19, and advise that you need to extend your stay until <likely date of leaving quarantine>. If you need anything from us, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.
<name of covid carer> will be your point of contact in case you need anything. You can reach them on <phone number> by call, SMS or <whatsapp/signal/etc> or by email at <email address>.
With best wishes,
Follow up email
Hi <first name>,
I hope you’re feeling OK today, <if you dropped off the care package, check everything was OK / ask if there’s anything they need>.
As far as the rules go relating to quarantining after testing positive, here’s the lowdown:
- You have to test negative on a lateral flow test for two consecutive days before you’re allowed to leave quarantine <check this, rules vary!>
- Once that happens you’ll be able to return home - you’ll need to make sure you get the test done in a clinic <check if this is true, rules vary!>
Here’s the nearest clinic where you can get a test done:
<provide name, address, website and how they can get there>
If you haven’t already done so, you might want to order some essentials. <insert information about any home-delivery services, apps that they can use, etc, to get whatever they might need e.g. Glovo app, supermarket delivery, etc>.
If there’s anything you need from us, or just want to have a chat, please get in touch with <name of the person who’s going to be the covid carer person> on <phone number> - you can call/text or use <whatsapp/signal/etc> to keep in touch.
With best wishes,
Before they are due to end their quarantine
I believe you’re coming to the end of your quarantine period soon, and I bet you can’t wait to get home!
If you require any assistance with booking transportation to the airport, please don’t hesitate to let us know. It is recommended where possible not to use public transportation <check this, guidance varies>. You can use <recommended taxi booking services> to book a taxi if you need one.
If you need to get a negative test before returning home, you can get this done at <list local clinics>. We’d recommend getting the test done the day before going to the airport if that’s possible, so you don’t have the additional stress of wondering if you’re going to be negative before your flight!
If there’s anything else that we can do to help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Best wishes for a safe journey home!
I hope that some of this is helpful and it gives event organisers a head start on planning for how to support people who might test positive for covid-19 at their event and need to quarantine.