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WordPress Updates COVID-19 Guidelines for In-Person Events: Masks Strongly Recommended

By 22/04/2022May 17th, 2022No Comments

In-person WordPress events are ramping up again, with in-person meetups happening all over the world and WordCamps back on the schedule. A sampling of the upcoming major events include the following:

  • WordCamp Vienna, Austria (April 23, 2022)
  • WordCamp Irun (May 21–22, 2022)
  • WordCamp Europe (June 2–4, 2022)
  • WordCamp Warsaw, Poland (June 11–12, 2022)
  • WordCamp Montclair, (June 25, 2022)
  • WordCamp Netherlands (September 15–16, 2022)

WordPress’ Community Team published an updated set of COVID-19 guidelines today ahead of a the five WordCamps that will be happening over the next few months. There are a few notable changes from the previous guidelines, which mandated that organizers select a venue with staff that can check temperatures and vaccination status and remind attendees to wear masks. This removed the enforcement burden from volunteers.

The updated guidelines require organizers follow local guidelines, provide masks and hand sanitizer, and provide a sticker to attendees that indicates if they prefer others to wear a mask when conversing in close proximity.

The Community Team strongly recommended the following for attendees:

  • We still recommend that you wear a mask while at in-person WordPress events.
  • If you see that someone is wearing a sticker requesting people wear a mask near them, please wear a mask while within 6 feet (2 meters) of them or keep your distance.
  • A request that you only attend in-person if you are vaccinated or have recently tested negative.
  • Please stay at home if you are sick or have recently come in contact with someone who is ill.

Ten days prior to publishing the updated guidelines, the Community Team requested feedback in a post that asked the question, “What is keeping you from either organizing or attending an in-person event?

WordCamp Birmingham organizer Ryan Marks responded, saying his team was restricted from organizing in-person events (under the previous guidelines).

“My location doesn’t allow for the checking of vaccination status,” Marks said. “So we must answer yes to all of the In-person safety checklist items. It hasn’t been possible to answer yes to the first two questions yet.” The checklist required 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. 

Marks and his team were forced to postpone WordCamp Birmingham in January after Omicron hit Alabama and local infections began rising. The camp had previously been criticized for its initial masking policy, which stated “Masks are required for entry and preferred throughout the event.” This set off heated discussions on social media, where concerned community members condemned the gathering as “irresponsible.” The camp revised its masking guidelines to require masks indoors but ultimately had to postpone due to local conditions.

The updated guidelines from WordPress’ Community Team bear a striking similarity to WordCamp Birmingham’s original masking policy – if the local authorities do not have requirements in place, masks are optional but recommended. It has been well-documented that indoor masking can significantly reduce transmission, so the Community Team must have witnessed a major change in pandemic conditions to amend the guidelines to make them optional. With the exception of a handful of flagship events, WordPress has ultimately decided to leave the requirements to local authorities.

“As flagship events are larger and draw an international crowd, both WordCamp Europe and WordCamp US organizers were asked to view these as minimum requirements and are expected to have a more comprehensive plan in place,” WordPress community organizer Angela Jin said in today’s announcement.

WordCamp Europe will require masks indoors and social distancing at the speakers dinner. They are creating self-service registration booths and trying to put more activities, like WP Cafe, outdoors.

WordCamp US will be following San Diego’s local guidelines in September.

“We will require all attendees to be vaccinated or have recently tested negative,” Jin said. “Additionally, due to the size and nature of this event, masks will be required to be worn over both the mouth and nose while indoors. Hand sanitizer and masks will also be available and some activities, such as lunch, will be outdoors.”