WordPress Community Team Offers Stricter COVID-19 Security Protocols For In-Person Events In 2022 – WP Tavern
Growing concerns about loose security protocols during upcoming WordPress events, and the prevalence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, have prompted the community team to be more explicit in their COVID-19 security guidelines. The team is suggest additional measures previously not required.
Currently, in-person participants must be fully vaccinated, recently tested negative, or recently recovered from COVID-19. Each of these requirements is vague and subject to multiple interpretations. Recent peaks of infection in vaccinated and unvaccinated populations prompted the community team to suggest the following:
- Masks mandatory for all participants (even in regions that do not have a mask mandate at the moment).
- More prominent posts in WordCamp websites, emails and social media posts regarding COVID-19 safety guidelines.
- Mandatory temperature checks for all event participants (if permitted by local authorities).
- Hand disinfection stations accessible on site.
- Maintain social distancing practices during the event (larger meeting rooms and well-spaced seats can be a good way to implement this).
- Have a plan for contact tracing measures in case of infection (can be done using WordCamp record data, dating is a bit more complicated).
One of the concerns with imposing more mandatory security measures is law enforcement. WordPress events are typically hosted by volunteers who should now go beyond just facilitating an event to be ready to take on and eliminate those who violate security protocols. In a community of people of diverse beliefs, what if some members decide WordCamp is a good place to protest pandemic restrictions?
“I very much appreciate the heart behind wanting to keep the community safe, but I have a significant issue with how this is offered, and how it would be enforced, and how it shifts the burden of health and from safety to a team of volunteer organizers who are in no way trained or equipped to make medical decisions, ”said Ben Meredith.
“Additionally, there are many jurisdictions where proposed changes (like a mask warrant) are specifically prohibited by local law or decree.
“Trying to develop a policy at the international level (central WordCamp) that applies fairly and equitably to all local jurisdictions is a mad rush. What works in Los Angeles probably won’t work in Louisiana or Lagos. This is why the organizers are local.
If the WordPress community is determined to host events right now, then there is a lot more responsibility that organizers are now forced to take on in order to keep attendees safe. Participants in the discussion of the proposal raised dozens of questions about how these new security measures could be implemented.
“On the temporary checks, if someone reads out loud (they may not even know about it), then would we refund their ticket to the event assuming we’re talking about a WordCamp?” Laura Byrne asked.
WordCamp organizer and speaker David Ryan raised questions about masks, will the requirements describe what is considered a mask? (“Is a plastic face shield considered a mask? Are masks with ventilation valves acceptable? A bandana?) Does the requirement include speakers while they are speaking? “This should be clear in advance so that speakers and attendees can make informed choices without surprises on the day,” Ryan said.
He also asked if the masking policies extended to other venues, such as the official event hotel and afters, as the code of conduct applies.
Refunds are another consideration. Will WordCamps reimburse people who test positive just before the event? Will the event reimburse if people arrive and are uncomfortable or asked to leave for non-compliance with security measures?
“In addition to these proposed guidelines, I also recommend that we remove our existing guideline of allowing recently recovered community members to attend a WordPress event. since new COVID variants like Omicron are known to cause reinfectionAutomattic-sponsored WordPress community wrangler Hari Shanker said in the proposal.
Laura Byrne urged the community team to clearly define this directive.
“We’re in a shipment of problems with the word ‘recent,’ Byrn said.“ In other words, something like ‘Anyone who tests positive for COVID can’t attend a WordPress event until X days after they’ve done it. it no longer tests positive. “”
Some participants in the discussion see the additional security measures as overbearing for WordPress events. It is easier and simpler to recommend that organizers adhere to local requirements for all matters relating to health safety.
“Surely I’m not the only one who thinks that the foundation shouldn’t set health guidelines at all?” Cameron Jones said. “Compliance with local regulations should be the only requirement. “
The problem with this is that many places and regions either have no kind of precautions in place, due to political differences, or are slow to recognize emerging threats. Lax local guidelines for large gatherings can leave the WordPress community vulnerable to epidemics.
“As the organizer and speaker of WordCamp, and more personally as a recent cancer survivor and immunocompromised person, State of the Word has been a disturbing event to watch,” said David Ryan.
“Local legal requirements were met, but not proven event practices which eliminated or significantly reduced the positivity rate at larger gatherings in 2021 compared to SOTW results (ie, masks and testing). The planning, the day and the response afterward did not inspire confidence that this community was ready to hold safer and more inclusive events – so this is an encouraging step towards addressing the concerns many have expressed.
Comments on the proposal are open until January 22, 2022. The community team plans to evaluate the comments and finalize the updated guidelines in time for publication in the manual in early February 2022.