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Pandemic Impacts Fall Festivals

​Festivals, including those that are often scheduled throughout the fall, play an important role in local communities. Many event organizers are canceling their fall festivals. When planning an event that brings large numbers of people together, there are three COVID-19-related issues to consider:

•    policies and procedures,
•    facility preparation and supplies, and
•    education and training.

The Readiness and Planning Tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can assist with event planning along with these Guidelines for Re-opening Festivals & Special Events.

Consider policies and procedures that should be created to address the safety of festival workers and attendees. To get started, take a look at relevant local or state policies and orders set by regulatory agencies, such as the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control and accelerateSC.  Also, review the executive orders published by the Governor’s officeExecutive Order 2020-50 from August 2 spells out that gatherings shall not exceed 50% of the location’s occupancy limit or 250 persons, whichever is less. The Municipal Association has created guidance for Executive Order 2020-50.

If an event fits within the parameter of the executive order — the lesser of 50% occupancy or 250 people — then establishing safety policies and procedures should be considered while planning a festival. For example, establish procedures to limit attendance and to conduct health checks for workers and volunteers. Also, develop a plan to encourage social distancing and frequent hand sanitization. A detailed list of policies and procedures to consider can be found in the General Readiness Assessment, which is on Page 2 of the CDC’s Readiness and Planning Tool.

Next, festival planning should include a strategy to address facility safety and securing appropriate supplies to promote healthy behaviors, such as establishing hand sanitization stations and obtaining cloth face coverings, if appropriate. Indoor events may require extra cleaning products for repeated disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces. Reducing close contact of individuals can be addressed by reconfiguring parking lots to ensure proper vehicle separation and by managing the flow of foot traffic to encourage one way travel in the event space. Also, event planners can use ventilation systems or fans to move air away from crowded areas. With thoughtful planning, precautions can be taken to safeguard the event location and secure needed supplies to reduce the spread of COVID-19.   

When planning an event, be sure to educate event workers and attendees of the symptoms of COVID-19 and prohibit attendance of the event if they exhibit any symptoms. Also, create a plan for educating staff on all COVID-19 safety protocols, including any requirements on wearing cloth face coverings.   

Festivals may have a different look and feel this year, but with proper assessment and planning, protocols can be established to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for festival attendees. For more ideas on festival planning, see the detailed list of the CDC’s webpage Considerations for Events and Gatherings.