• To Track or Not to Track: Manual Contact Tracing or Tracking Technologies

     
    POSTED May 20, 2021
     

The CDC defines close contact as within six feet or less, for 15 minutes or more with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. At gatherings of many kinds, contact tracing is used to trace the people that someone has come into contact with, before they learn that they have tested positive. This allows the people that the sick person came into contact with to be aware of the situation, and to make health-informed choices. 

So, the initial answer is yes–you should do contact tracing at your meeting. There are two different methods you can use. Here are the high-level pros and cons of each.

Method 1: Manual Contact Tracing

  • Pros: By checking in on people upon arrival and generating your own list of attendees, there are no new upfront costs. There is nothing new for you or your team to learn, and there is no change in the meeting for your guests–besides masking and social distancing.  
  • Cons: If an attendee tests positive after the meeting, you as the planner have to inform everyone that they may have had a direct exposure to COVID-19. It takes more time on the back side to inform everyone, and that can have a cost to your organization. It can also undermine the trust your attendees have in you to be told they may have had contact, even though it’s not the planner’s fault.  There can also be a negative reaction in the public relations realm, or bad press if you do not have precise data on exposure. 

Ideal events for manual tracking: If your event is small, or for a short period of time, a tracking technology might be overkill. If you have no room in your budget to add tracking technology, and if your audience is opposed to the idea of wearing a tracking device, then using your list might be the best, or only option. 

Method 2: Tracking Technology 

  • Pros: If someone tests positive, you are only informing the people you know had close contact with the sick person instead of everyone at the meeting. Most technologies can pull up this data in a matter of minutes. In a public relations sense, you as the planner will look more proactive when you can say you used a contact tracing technology. Finally, your guests might feel safer attending knowing that they will get more precise information on potential exposure. 
  • Cons: There are new upfront costs–anywhere from $5-$10 per person per day for a phone app, or $10-$15 per person per day per BLE Bluetooth Technology. Although the technology is pretty plug and play–you still have an extra step at check-in and something new to teach your team. And, there are people are opposed to wearing a device, plain and simple. 

Ideal events for using tracking technology: If your event is large, or for multiple days, the odds go up that you will have someone report sick post-event, so having technology to help in the reporting becomes more valuable and cost effective.

Every meeting, budget, and audience is different and will have different needs. No one option is right for everyone, and for some, using your check-in list will be enough.

Julie Ann Schmidt (CMP, CMM, & MNM+E Hall of Fame) is president of Lithium Logistics Group, a full-service MICE agency based in Minnesota. Lithium Logistics has extensive international experience and is the company you call to take your program or event to the next level. With more than 25 years of experience in the event industry, Schmidt has recently became a certified COVID-19 compliance officer and has served on national and federal COVID-19 task forces. She currently trains planners on how to get back to live meetings and other COVID-related topics. For more information, visit lilogisticsreg.voicehive.com

With restrictions across the country in a state of constant flux, not everyone is ready to jump back into meeting in person. While some planners are eager to get back to “normal,” the long-term adjustment to new protocols and potential risks make some hesitant to gather.

While wearing masks and social distancing can help keep attendees safe, intentional design choices—such as including natureinspired elements and materials and plenty of plants—can also help calm attendees.

 

As the number of vaccinations across the country increases, the amount of live events and gatherings will hopefully rise with it. However, that doesn’t mean the way people gather will go back to normal instantly: there may be an adjustment period before bars, theaters, stadiums and churches are all full of people again.

 Spacing, social distancing, and creativity will be vital for planners and venues in the meantime, and tools like staging, seating, and more will be crucial for the execution of these.