As our society has adapted to the many limitations imposed by COVID-19, we also have learned those limits can prompt innovation and the development of solutions to help us move forward.
For a while, events may look and feel different in a post-quarantine world. For obvious reasons, they possibly will be less attended, but by implementing smart strategies using updated technology, planning, operational, and management approaches we can reshape events while ensuring the safety of attendees. In this new world, at least one thing has not changed: the central goal for successful events is to protect the guests while ensuring they enjoy a positive experience.
As we begin to emerge from the post-quarantine environment, many events slated for August or later remain on the calendar. It makes sense now to map out how to mitigate exposure risks while helping people attend the new version of their favorite sporting, entertainment, and conference events.
The good news is that technology, teamed with best practices and procedures, can provide solutions. How will this work? There are options and opportunities.
To maximize safety and inclusivity, as a baseline action an event company can invest in online tools to enable vulnerable participants to enjoy the event from home as an option.
For those who choose to attend in person, the company should:
- take all steps to effectively communicate prescribed social distancing guidelines and ensure the venue design is set up to facilitate compliance, including the layout/design of vendor locations and dining spaces;
- provide masks for all event personnel and on request for attendees; and
- boost capabilities to connect with and understand the spectators before, during and after the event. This includes integrating the electronic parking, ticketing and credentialing into the entry screening process, so that unknown patrons at the event are extremely limited.
This data-driven system can serve many purposes. An expanded two-way communication system with the fans to extend the conversation before, during and after the event. Timed spectator arrivals that facilitates crowd control measures incorporating social distancing requirements. Transport data to ensure traffic is eased during ingress and egress.
From an operational standpoint, event sponsors must enhance automation and screening capabilities at event entrances. Technology integration will be key and can be managed through a command center. Ideally, fan entry would be automated, with highly trained screeners placed at secondary screening stations to handle more complex situations.
This tiered structure would work particularly well with the integration of thermal imaging technology as a screening tool. The Food and Drug Administration recently affirmed the deployment of thermal imaging technology in support of COVID-19 mitigation measures, stating:
The advantage of using telethermographic systems for initial temperature assessment for triage use is the potential use in high throughput areas (e.g., airports, businesses, warehouses, factories) and in settings where other temperature assessment products may be in short supply. The available scientific literature supports the use of telethermographic systems in the context of initial human temperature measurement during such a triage process (1).
This technology already is in use globally at some airports and by transport networks for temperature detection and offers the potential to screen spectators and limit the participation of spectators who might be ill and contagious.
Here is how it would work, with integration playing a central role:
- Arriving fans would be thermally screened at venue entrances.
- If an elevated temperature is detected, trained screeners would divert the attendee or attendees to a secondary station, a medical tent.
- In the secondary screening area, trained staff will be running a CertScan® application on a tablet. (The CertScan® integration platform is designed to manage data, creating records that can be used to meet any requirements triggered by the interaction, such as informing the event insurance carrier and meeting public health reporting mandates).
- A staff member will gather key data, including taking the individual’s temperature using a handheld tool and connecting it to the attendee’s contact information.
- Following screening and data collection, attendees with elevated temperatures would be escorted from the event to limit the possibility of contagion while others will proceed into the event.
Deploying thermal technology to detect elevated body temperatures will obviously not eliminate the threat of COVID19, but it has the potential to serve as a helpful tool to determine the presence of carriers and mitigate the potential spread of disease in high throughput areas. For this reason, this approach has been affirmed by the FDA and is already being used in applications where it is necessary to assess large groups of people to identify the presence of the most common symptoms of COVID19.
The virus has forced workarounds and cancellations, bringing disappointment and disruption. S2 Global experienced this directly as a partner in the PGA TOUR Champions Rapiscan Systems Classic golf tournament in Biloxi, which was scheduled for March and the first PGA tournament cancelled.
Perhaps most disappointing was the impact on the Birdies for Charity program, which generates donations for a host of nonprofits in the Mississippi Gulf region. But even with tournament cancellation, generous donors gave more than $1 million—a record.
We now are planning and looking forward to the 2021 tournament under what certainly will be new processes and procedures designed to make that event and others like it safe, successful and, most importantly, enjoyable for the fans.
(1): Enforcement Policy for Telethermographic Systems During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19); Public Health Emergency Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff – April 2020. (https://www.fda.gov/media/137079/download)