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WordPress Community Team Updates COVID-19 Safety Guidelines to Relieve Volunteers of Enforcement Burden

Earlier this month the WordPress Community Team proposed stricter guidelines for hosting in-person events, as the pandemic continues to warrant vigilance and a nimble approach to ensuring attendees’ safety. The updated guidelines were published today with an important change that relieves volunteers of the burden of enforcing the safety measures.

The new mandatory guidelines require meetup and WordCamp organizers to follow local laws for events with more than 50 attendees. If the location requires or permits venues to limit admission based on vaccination status and masking, the selected venue must be able to provide staff to enforce these measures during the event. Otherwise, the event cannot be hosted there.

If the area or venue cannot legally check vaccination status, organizers must ensure their location passes the in-person checklist at application and at the time of the event. This checklist requires the area’s average positive case rate to average under 4% for 28 days, and to have under 50 new cases reported per 100,000 people for 14 days, among other requirements. During this Omicron surge, very few places in the world could qualify for an in-person WordPress event if using this checklist.

“For the WordPress Community, another important consideration needs to be the health of the events program,” WordPress Community Team leader Angela Jin said in the announcement. “As you might imagine, the people who support this program really, truly, deeply want events that connect and inspire WordPress enthusiasts to continue! Moving forward with in-person events that risk the health of community members is unacceptable, and also poses risks to the program itself.”

Many participants in the comments on the original proposal asked why the team couldn’t just leave the camps to be subject to local guidelines.

“It could make things easier if organizers were simply asked to follow local guidelines when planning a WordCamp,” Jin said. “In reading comments on the recent post, I am reminded that many local governments are in similar situations: at the whim of when and what the next variant will bring, and debating best approaches to safety.”

Another problem with following local guidelines is that these are not always safe or adequate to meet the current threat. Some people have the privilege of having their health prioritized by local officials. Others live under corrupt leaders whose political ambitions compromise the health of the people they are meant to serve.

One of the main benefits of the new guidelines is that it imposes more safety measures while protecting volunteers by offloading enforcement to the venues. This may also come at a cost in cases where WordCamps will not be able to use a venue that is not staffed on the weekends. For some smaller, local camps, this could be limiting if they do not have a budget for the type of venue that is required.

For meetup events with fewer than 50 attendees, the Community team recommends organizers follow local guidelines and limit the event to those who are fully vaccinated or who have tested negative within 48 hours.