Coronavirus and Meetings
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Given the global concern about COVID-19, or the coronavirus outbreak, coupled with high flu activity, meeting planners must prepare a response. Planners, together with event security teams and risk management personnel, should develop a "flu risk management" plan in the coming months to ensure business continuity at their events.
The primary issue here is not necessarily the coronavirus, but rather the attendees’ concern about this flu-like illness. Anything we can do to minimize this concern among attendees will help to avoid any disruptions to our meetings.
Below are simple strategies planners can take to ensure their risk management plans are effective:
Establish a communication plan
Calm attendee concerns by doing the following:
- Notify everyone that the chance of being infected by the coronavirus is less than chance of being hit by lightning.
- Convey that the chance of coming down with the seasonal flu is a million times more likely than being infected with the coronavirus.
- Demonstrate strong and effective prevention measures.
Promote illness prevention by advising these measures:
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cough or fever.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth or nose with a flexed elbow or tissue. Throw tissues away immediately and wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Implement a screening program for all ill attendees who have a respiratory infection or fever.
- Remember that most cases of serious febrile or respiratory illnesses will be related to seasonal influenza.
- Provide access to convenient Rapid Influenza testing.
- In the very unlikely event that an attendee develops a febrile illness and has recently been to a geographical COVID-19 hot-spot or has been in close contact with someone who may have coronavirus, they should be tested for influenza, closely monitored, quarantined in their hotel room and removed from the meeting program, and reported to public health officials for a possible coronavirus infection.
Provide access to convenient, cost-effective antiviral treatment.
- Know that prompt antiviral treatment can reduce the duration of the illness and the spread of influenza.
- Offer close contacts of the patient preventative care.
Develop quarantine protocols for any suspected, flu-like cases.
- Keep in mind that the most effective way to prevent the spread of the flu is to keep the ill parties away from the group.
- Ensure that suspected or confirmed cases of influenza will be quarantined in their rooms until their fever is gone.
Jonathan Spero is the CEO of InHouse Physicians, which provides on‐site medical support services for meetings.