In nearly three decades of organizing events, we have experienced numerous unexpected situations that have impacted our event plans, but this is our first pandemic. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19, page at CDC) pandemic (map of worldwide cases by John’s Hopkins University) is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), a genetic cousin of the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003.
A recent study simulating the spread of COVID-19 in Great Britain and the U.S. shows that, in order for our healthcare system not to be greatly overwhelmed, very significant suppression measures, including the current drastic social distancing that has been recommended, will likely need to remain in place for most of the time over at least the next year to year and a half, until there is an effective vaccine.
While there have been questions about the timeliness and effectiveness of the U.S. response, there seems to be wide agreement among experts that social distancing is critically important, and mandates and recommendations in the greater Seattle area where we are based now reflect this. When it comes to the details: Group size restrictions and other mandates from different levels of government and recommendations from public health authorities at the regional and national levels have been changing frequently, and they seem likely to keep changing, so we are hesitant to plan too far ahead; if we had written this blog post last week it would have been different.
What has not changed is our commitment to enriching your life by producing great outdoor events, and we intend to do so to the extent that it is safe and in compliance with the prevailing guidance from governmental and public health authorities.
But our greater commitment is to do our part to help protect the lives and health of the public and our community of staff, volunteers, and of course the people who participate in our events, so for the time being, we either are being forced—or are deciding it is prudent—to cancel or postpone some upcoming events. We greatly look forward to hosting people like you at our events, so this is very disappointing for us, as we imagine it may be for you. The pandemic has also created losses of business and jobs and the attendant financial stress for many people, and some of our customers and our company itself could face some hard times.
Public health authorities have recognized the importance of both keeping physically active and of doing things that we enjoy, and we’re fairly confident that we can support our community (and ourselves) in these ways by presenting some opportunities that are similar to what we normally offer, but with some modifications to greatly reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19. We’re already implementing ways to offer some of our events in a modified, social-distancing-compliant format, and we will keep exploring and planning ways to do this. Look for website, email, and social media updates from us on what we arrange for upcoming events.
For events that are canceled or postponed, we will be sending emails to registered participants to consult on preferred dates for rescheduling, offer credits for people who registered for a canceled event or can’t attend a rescheduled one, and process refunds for people who are among the many experiencing financial stress.
Until we see you next, we’ll be socially distancing, practicing good personal hygiene (including washing our hands and avoiding touching our eyes, mouth, and nose), planning for upcoming events, looking for ways to support people in our communities through these challenging times, and getting outside to enjoy the lovely weather.
As always, we welcome you to keep in touch on our social media or via email, whether you have questions or something to share or just want to say hi!
Here are some resources on coronavirus we’ve found to help us stay informed and keep ourselves and the community safe:
- King County Department of Health
- Washington State Department of Health
- Centers for Disease Control
- World Health Organization
- John’s Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center
- Some elected officials have been emailing out messages on the coronavirus pandemic that include links to resources to get help with economic and other impacts. You can do a web search to locate and contact your city, county, or state officials to see what resources are available. They are there to serve you.