The WordPress community is eager to return to in-person events and organizers are discussing a path to ensure the safety of resuming meetups as a first step before considering WordCamps. Previous discussions led to the creation of a checklist to assist local organizers in determining if their chapter is eligible to proceed. Noticeably absent from the checklist at the time was the requirement for widely distributed vaccines before resuming local events.
This week, Andrea Middleton proposed adding vaccination status to the in-person meetup safety checklist.
“When we created that checklist, COVID-19 vaccine rollout was still in very early stages, and the checklist did not account for vaccines,” Middleton said. “Vaccination efforts are still being rolled out across the world and many people do not have access to vaccines yet, but progress has reached a point where it seems wise to start incorporating it into the checklist, where possible.”
The proposal would allow places that don’t currently pass the checklist to hold WordPress meetups for vaccinated attendees if vaccines are freely available in the area and local authorities are permitting gatherings.
Local organizers would also be encouraged to continue holding online events or finding ways to livestream in-person meetups so that those who are not yet comfortable attending will still have access.
“It isn’t practical (and, in some places, legal) to ask organizers to check the vaccination status of individuals,” Middleton said. “Therefore, I suggest we ask groups to use the honor system, trusting that people will only attend these events if they have been vaccinated.”
If meetup organizers move forward with the honor system, attendees will have to embrace some risk should people who are not fully vaccinated wish to break the meetup guidelines.
WordPress community leadership has the challenging task of navigating this new territory with changing conditions all over the globe. The changing laws and recommendations in different areas make it nearly impossible to create a policy that will work across the board. This week, the US passed a major milestone when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its interim public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to discontinue mask wearing and physical distancing in most cases. However, governors in some states said that indoor mask mandates would remain in place while state health officials review the new recommendations.
In the comments of the proposal, Mika Epstein asked if there will be repercussion if someone violates the honor code – otherwise “what’s the point in having a that proposal in the first place?” A policy that isn’t enforceable becomes more of an encouragement than a requirement.
WordPress meetup organizers, just like retailers, restaurants, and other businesses, will have no way of knowing who is vaccinated and who is not. The CDC reports that only 36.2% of the US population is fully vaccinated. The share of people who have had at least one does of the COVID-19 vaccine varies greatly from one country to the next.
While some countries are logging very low numbers for daily cases, despite having only small percentages of the population vaccinated, they pay the price with intermittent lockdowns, travel bans, and strict quarantine measures. In-person WordPress meetups may not be possible in these locations where vaccines are not widely available, despite the local chapter being able to meet most of the requirements on the checklist.
The discussion is open until May 27, when Middleton plans to close comments on the proposal.