You are dramatically less likely to contract Covid-19 at a business event than by simply performing day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping, according to a new study. In fact, the mid-August research found infection rates at business events were as much as 95 percent lower than the average across the U.S. over the same time period. The report, released last week, found that risk of infection at business events was as much as eight times less than the surrounding metro area where the meeting was being held.
The findings are the result of a research partnership between global event producer Freeman and Epistemix, a computational modeling software company that develops simulations to fight disease and inform public health policy. The survey was fielded in mid-August, with responses from 5,165 attendees of business events and 442 exhibitors.
Among key factors driving the relative safety of business events are high vaccination rates (more than 80 percent at the time of the survey), the controllable nature of events, and the correlation between participants’ eagerness to meet in person and their willingness to abide by additional health and safety protocols in order to do so.
“We recognize the current rise in Delta variant cases has led some event organizers and exhibitors to consider cancellations,” said John Cordier, CEO and cofounder of Epistemix. “Our modeling and these data can help show organizers and public health officials replace that uncertainty with confidence to plan safe events.”
Tightly Controlled Environments
Meetings are typically held in a highly controllable setting. “Effectively, we create our own bubbles with business events,” Sue Sung, Freeman’s senior vice president of corporate strategy, told Northstar last week. Because of their controlled nature — required registration, private spaces, set times — in-person business events are self-contained entities that have little to no impact on community spread, and vice versa.
Data for recent August events, per Epistemix, found infection rates of less than 0.1 percent, which is 65 to 95 percent lower than in the U.S. overall. The data represents more than two dozen cities and key event destinations.
Motivated to Meet Face-to-Face
Despite concerns over the Delta variant, the majority of attendees and exhibitors want to return to in-person events. And more than 90 percent are willing to adhere to additional health and safety protocols that enable them to gather safely, according to the study.
The primary reason for going to a business event, across all market segments, is the simple fact that it is being held in person, said Ken Holsinger, Freeman’s senior vice present of data solutions, in a webinar detailing the findings. That was reason enough for 35 percent of respondents overall, outranking CDC recommendations, safety protocols, vaccination rates and other influencing factors.
Eighty-seven percent of respondents consider in-person events irreplaceable. In fact, fewer than 1 percent expect they will never return to face-to-face meetings.
Further Reducing Risks
In calculating risk factors for event organizers, Epistemix considered mitigation measures such as vaccine requirements, mask mandates, Covid testing, air filtration and other protocols.
“Any mitigation that is put in place is an additional protection on top of the vaccinations,” said Cordier — effectively allowing for larger groups without assuming additional risk. “This isn't March 2020,” he emphasized. “We have a lot more tools in our toolkits now, and we're able to help make better decisions that way.”