In-Person Conference COVID-19 Protocol: Vaccine Requirement
Lisa Thompson, Deputy Director, National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO)
The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) planned an in-person Annual Conference in October of 2021 while the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic lingered. The NASCIO conference experience is one of networking and collaboration. The challenge for the team was delivering on the expectations of a NASCIO experience while keeping staff and attendee health and safety at the forefront.
From the onset, NASCIO and their hotel worked to put various protocols in place around food preparation, masking, hand sanitizer, etc. However, the current masking policy for NASCIO’s Seattle hotel was masking in all public areas except when actively eating or drinking. Knowing that the highest risk of potential COVID spread at a conference is when attendees are eating and drinking – large meal functions and networking receptions – the NASCIO team feared that only following the masking policy alone would not provide adequate protection for their attendees and put them in high-risk situations. Again, keeping the health and safety of attendees at the forefront while working to provide the experience that NASCIO members expect from a conference, the NASCIO Executive Committee determined that all attendees must provide either proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken no earlier than 72 hours upon arrival. Additionally, to ensure the policy was upheld, all attendees went through a security check where they presented their vaccination or test information to third-party security representatives upon arrival. Once the proper documentation was presented, security provided the attendee with a ticket that they presented at registration to check-in and receive their badge. If a ticket was not presented at registration, they were sent directly to security. Once the badge was received, no further security checks were necessary.
The result of NASCIO’s COVID-19 protocols was an overwhelming success:
- Prior to the announcement of these protocols, NASCIO’s registration was very slow. While the group expected a lower than usual registration, current registration was less than half of a typical conference. Once the announcement was made about the vaccination/negative test requirement, NASCIO receive multiple emails thanking the organization for these steps with many saying it was the only reason they were attending. There were no negative responses from members and registration for the event went from less than 50 percent of the typical registration to 80 percent.
- NASCIO put together an aggressive communications plan to ensure all attendees knew what was required. Additionally, the organization had a list of area clinics where a PCR COVID test could be obtained should an attendees arrive without the proper credentials. The group was happy to report that every attendee was prepared and presented the necessary documentation and no one was turned away or had to find a test on-site. Another fantastic statistic was that 99 percent of the conference attendees were vaccinated!
- Finally, NASCIO communicated guidelines to attendees on their duty to report and an anonymous reporting structure should they receive a positive COVID diagnosis up to 14 days following the conference. Four days after the conference NASCIO did receive one report of a positive test. All attendees were notified and reminded of the duty to report with instructions on how to submit. No additional reports were received.
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