Is it safe to resume in-person meetings?

By Grant Hocking, Past District Governor and member of the Rotary Club of Woodend, Australia

Restrictions due to COVID-19 have challenged our communities, our clubs and ourselves.

As an Australian, I feel proud of our response and results in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and Rotary members can feel proud of the way we have responded. The rapid transition to video conferencing platforms, and establishing new projects and fundraising activities has been nothing short of amazing. You all deserve a big and hearty congratulations.

Although there has recently been a slight easing of restrictions in some parts of the world, there is a real need to proceed with caution in recommencing face-to-face meetings or public events and activities. I have been asked by many members in my district for guidance around resuming meetings and events.

So, while not wanting to dictate a particular course of action, I feel it is important to provide some guidance based on my experience in the healthcare field as a Paramedic. The last thing we want is an outbreak or COVID -19 cluster occurring due to a Rotary meeting or activity.

The best advice I can offer is to slowly and cautiously decide when to meeting in person again. Several factors need to be taken into account when considering getting back together, including:

  • The requirements of your local and federal governments.
  • The personal preferences of members.
  • Age and pre-existing medical conditions of those attending.
  • Current health status of attendees and the presence of flu-like symptoms (headache, runny nose, sore throat, fever). If any symptoms present, they should not attend. If symptoms develop during the event, they should leave and seek medical advice.
  • Limiting numbers in attendance.
  • Ability to maintain social distancing, hand sanitation and other healthy habits.
  • No close contact such as handshakes, hugs or kisses.
  • Provision of hand washing facilities and alcohol-based hand sanitiser in all common areas. Provision of face coverings.
  • Keeping names and contact details of all those attending in case contact tracing is required.
  • Avoiding buffet-style meals and ensuring individual serving and utensils including the use of disposable cups (although not great for the environment).
  • Regular cleaning and disinfecting of rooms, surfaces and toilets.
  • Minimising congregation in common areas.
  • Ability to meet outdoors or in a well-ventilated establishment.
  • Minimising participation of those who recently travelled or attended large gatherings.

I realise this is a long non-exhaustive list, but feel it is necessary. Minimisation of unnecessary exposure and risk mitigation will lessen the risk of cross infection and should be foremost in the minds of all Rotary members.

Restrictions will be with us for a while and will need to be maintained for many months to come. The rate at which more restrictions will be eased and not reinstated depends a lot on how we do as a society in limiting the spread of COVID 19.

It is important in these challenging times to maintain focus and continue to support our communities. I know when the restrictions are over, that we will certainly appreciate our lifestyles, communities and Rotary experiences more than in the past. It is important to stay positive and be supportive.

Look to your leaders for guidance, having all the information and following advice of health professionals and your government is crucial. Congratulations on the results so far, but there is a way to go before it is over. I know all Rotary members are willing to do the right thing to lead the way and be an example to the community.

Most importantly: stay safe and stay well.

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