Gatherings, Events and Seasonal Guidance
According to the CDC, a gathering refers to a planned or spontaneous event, indoors or outdoors, with a small number of people participating or a large number of people in attendance such as a community event or gathering, concert, festival, conference, parade, wedding or sporting event.
The current Public Health Order limits all public and private gatherings within Boone County not held at a place of business to 20 individuals or less. Events and gatherings that are held within a place of business are limited to 100 attendees, or 50% capacity, whichever is less.
Under the Current Public Health Order, any business, entity, large venue, event or public gathering facing unique circumstances not specifically addressed in this Order or seeking to accommodate in excess of the limitations specified may submit a proposed Operational Plan for review and conditional approval by PHHS. Please note that based on the current transmission level of the COVID-19 virus in Boone County, our recommendation is to host events virtually or postpone to a later date if seeking to exceed the limitations in the current Public Health Order. If still seeking to exceed the current limitations in the Order, an Operational Plan must be submitted and approved.
Please submit your plan through this form.
Please allow 7-10 business days for a response regarding your plan. Since operational plans typically require multiple drafts before approval, we recommend submitting an operational plan no later than 14 days prior to the event date. When you submit a plan, it is in the queue and we will do our best to review it as soon as possible.
General Guidance for all events/gatherings
According to the CDC, the risk of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings increases as follows:
- Lowest Risk: Virtual-only activities, events and gatherings.
- More Risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g. community, town/city, or county).
- Higher Risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.
- Highest Risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.
There are several factors that contribute to the risk of getting infected or infecting others with the virus that causes COVID-19 at an event/gathering. In combination, these factors will create various amounts of risk, so it is important to consider them individually and together:
- Community levels of COVID-19 – Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, as well as where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
- The location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings generally pose more risk than outdoor gatherings. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose more risk than those with good ventilation, such as those with open windows or doors.
- The duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings.
- The number of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people.
- The locations attendees are traveling from – Gatherings with attendees who are traveling from different places pose a higher risk than gatherings with attendees who live in the same area. Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, or where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
- The behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Gatherings with attendees who are not adhering to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, hand washing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than gatherings with attendees who are engaging in these preventative behaviors.
- The behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more preventive measures, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing, in place pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented.
Guidance for hosting events
- Limit attendance or seating capacity to allow for social distancing, or host smaller events in larger rooms.
- Prioritize outdoor activities where social distancing can be maintained as much as possible.
- Offer online attendance options in addition to in-person attendance to help reduce the number of attendees.
- Stagger and limit attendance times to minimize the number of guests at the venue.
- Use multiple entrances and exits and discourage crowded waiting areas.
- Block off rows or sections of seating in order to space people at least 6 feet apart.
- Eliminate lines or queues, where possible.
- Encourage people to stay at least 6 feet apart by providing signs or other visual cues such as tape or chalk marks.
- Reconfigure parking lots to limit congregation points and ensure proper separation of attendees (e.g., closing every other parking space).
- Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that individuals remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g., guides for creating one-way routes).
- Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, in areas where it is difficult for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart. Barriers can be useful at cash registers and other areas where maintaining physical distance of 6 feet is difficult.
- Change seating layout or availability of seating so that people can remain least 6 feet apart.
- Discourage people from sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect.
- Limit any sharing of food, tools, equipment, or supplies.
- Disinfect any items that must be shared with an EPA-approved disinfectant, including bathrooms.
- Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high-touch materials to the extent possible; otherwise, limit use of supplies and equipment to one group of staff members/event organizers or attendees at a time, and clean and disinfect them between use.
- Stagger the use of shared indoor spaces that encourage congregation, such as dining areas, waiting areas, and lounges as much as possible and clean and disinfect them between uses.
- Clean and disinfect bathrooms regularly using EPA-registered disinfectants.
- Replace in-person meetings with video- or tele-conference calls whenever possible.
- As feasible, offer options for attendees at higher risk for severe illness that limit their exposure risk (e.g., virtual attendance).
- Consider limiting event attendance to staff and guests who live in the local area (e.g., community, city, town, or county) to reduce risk of spreading the virus from areas with higher levels of COVID-19. If attendance is open to staff and guests from other communities, cities, town or counties, provide information to attendees so they can make an informed decision about participation.
- Designate a point person to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. All staff and attendees should know who this person or office is and how to contact them.
- Develop action plans for if someone were to become sick while attending the event.
- Put systems in place to:
- Encourage staff and attendees to self-report to event officials or a COVID-19 point of contact if they have symptoms of COVID-19, a positive test for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
- Advise attendees prior to the event or gathering that they should not attend if they have symptoms of, a positive test for, or were recently exposed (within 14 days) to COVID-19.
- Notify staff, attendees, and the public of cancellations and restrictions in place to limit people’s exposure to COVID-19 (e.g., limited hours of operation).
- Maintain a list of attendees with contact information that can be provided to Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services for contact tracing if an event attendee later tests positive for COVID-19. This helps assure that all people who were in contact with the individual who tests positive can be notified and provided with guidance.
- Identify and address potential language, cultural, and disability barriers associated with communicating COVID-19 information to event staff and participants. Tailor information so that it is easily understood by various audiences and is available in alternative formats and languages.
The holiday season is in full swing. The normal hustle and bustle of the season can be stressful enough. Trying to hustle and bustle during a pandemic can be even more stressful. Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) has put together some guidance to help you make your holiday plans as safe as possible. The intent of this document is to provide guidance for common activities surrounding the holidays after Thanksgiving through New Years, such as traveling, holiday parties, and gift exchanges. Events and activities can be made as safe as possible by staying COVID Aware, but there is always risk involved when people gather. We know people are tired of the pandemic, but taking public health measures this holiday season will protect our family and friends, and move us all towards a return to normal.
Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to gather with friends and family to share and reflect on what we are thankful for. Connecting with others is still an important tradition this year, but the Thanksgiving holiday may look a little different given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) has put together some guidance to help guide you as you make your Thanksgiving plans as safe as possible.
It’s been a spooky year and it’s about to get even spookier with Halloween just around the corner! Just as it has been for all things this year, Halloween is going to look a little different than usual. But that doesn’t mean that the fun has to stop! Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services has put together some guidance to help make your Halloween plans as safe as possible.