How can EA local groups reduce likelihood of our members getting COVID-19 or other infectious diseases?

Note: I’m not a qual­ified ex­pert (or an un­qual­ified ex­pert) in epi­demiol­ogy, pub­lic health, or even ba­sic biol­ogy. How­ever, this ar­ti­cle has been lightly re­viewed by more qual­ified peo­ple.

UPDATE 2020/​03/​08: Since 2020/​03/​04, all Bay Area EA events will be post­poned un­til fur­ther no­tice. I en­courage other event or­ga­niz­ers in a similar po­si­tion (mul­ti­ple con­firmed cases, com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion, CDC or lo­cal equiv­a­lents be­ing no­tice­ably slow to act) to do the same.

From a pub­lic health per­spec­tive, fo­cus­ing coro­n­avirus pre­ven­tion efforts on EA lo­cal groups doesn’t make much sense. We’re un­usu­ally young, likely to be in Western coun­tries, un­usu­ally wealthy, etc. How­ever, I think that a) EA group or­ga­niz­ers are com­par­a­tively well-placed to re­duce in­fec­tion rates at our own events (even if our mem­bers are not peo­ple who pub­lic health pro­fes­sion­als will triage) and b) lo­cal group or­ga­niz­ers plau­si­bly have a spe­cial obli­ga­tion to make sure our mem­bers aren’t in­fected.

Here are 7 core tips for think­ing about coro­n­avirus for lo­cal group or­ga­niz­ers:

  1. Don’t panic. This will most likely blow over, and it’s not worth­while to panic any­way. There are large costs (iso­la­tion, anx­iety) to can­cel­ling nor­mal events.

  2. Ed­u­ca­tion. Get your fel­low group or­ga­niz­ers to read this guide as well as the CDC guide for event at­ten­dees.

  3. En­courage self-quaran­tine. En­courage and ap­plaud mem­bers for not at­tend­ing events if sick, even slightly.

  4. Hand­wash­ing. Teach your at­ten­dees and model hand­wash­ing well.

  5. Hand san­i­tiz­ers. Have hand san­i­tiz­ers read­ily ac­cessible and available.

  6. Strongly dis­cour­age hand­shakes. En­courage the elbow bump or bows in­stead.

  7. Wipe down pub­lic sur­faces if pos­si­ble. Lysol works for other similar coro­n­aviruses.

You can read a more de­tailed linked Google Doc I wrote if you’re in­ter­ested in im­ple­men­ta­tion de­tails, or more hy­po­thet­i­cal sug­ges­tions that might oc­ca­sion­ally be use­ful for a sub­set of group or­ga­niz­ers.

This ar­ti­cle is bi­ased to­wards a spe­cific re­gion and time (the cur­rent situ­a­tion as of 2020/​02/​26, with Europe/​ North Amer­ica/​ Aus­trala­sia groups in mind). Lo­cal con­di­tions may vary.

The au­thor will like to thank the biose­cu­rity con­fer­ence Cat­a­lyst for in­spiring him to write some­thing about COVID-19, Tessa Alex­a­nian and Richard Bruns for an ini­tial re­view and con­struc­tive feed­back, and his room­mates, fel­low Bay Area EA or­ga­niz­ers, and Buck Sh­legeris for hu­mor­ing him on this sud­den novel coro­n­avirus ob­ses­sion in the last two days.