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The emergence of worldwide COVID outbreaks beginning of 2020 saw cancellations shut down the entire community. Tech meetups were no exception. As more and more in-person events start to return, it’s important to remember we are still in the middle of a pandemic. People may not want to admit it but the fast yearning to want to return to normalcy has come at a huge cost. However, there are many ways we can still meet up responsibly and try to curve the spread.
In episode 28 of WordPress.org’s podcast executive director of WordPress, Josepha Haden Chomphosy talked about the return of in-person WordCamp meetups. They have several good ideas about getting back into the swing of attending the many different WordCamps. A few of my favorites included: making sure you follow the local guidelines of where the event is taking place. Rules/laws can vary from city to city at this point regarding COVID so being informed can be a struggle for those that may be coming out of town. Posting clear rules as an organizer and making sure to read up on them as a guest will help a lot in that aspect. Another good one stressed the importance of continuing to have an online meet-up pathway if possible. Virtual events did wonders for those in WordPress who haven’t been able to travel or may not have any local events. That’s why it is very important that we all keep in mind the positives of virtual meetups and remember all the good they do.
A few things that I would like to add that can make these meetups better, safer, and more inclusive to others are making sure masks are worn and available, there is adequate space for those choosing to keep their distance, and that it is stressed people who are sick or have symptoms are staying home.
Masking or no masking has been an issue since the beginning of the pandemic. With over one million Americans losing their lives, it seems that some people just don’t care. If events are going to come back fully operable wearing a mask should be non-negotiable and they should be distributed. If we really miss these in-person events, why aren’t we doing everything in our power to stop the spread so more can happen? Yes, there will be those that for some reason equate it with their freedom, but we owe it to people who are out here helping us. Our fellow people in tech and also the people running, serving, and cleaning these meetups as well.
Making sure there is enough space for people can be both easy and hard. Rooms for speaking only have so much space. So, if there is a limit on who can attend or a demand that everyone sits at least 6 feet away, there runs the risk of there being no space. There’s also an issue with making the event outside only. Weather the day of can cancel the even just as fast as it was put together. A good solution to this? Setting up cameras that allow people to watch in other rooms and spaces. That way people can be adequately spaced out have a chance to see their favorite talk and stop the spread. It also allows an online stream and a continuance of virtual meetups! Those at home will be able to enjoy it even if they are miles and miles away. And they don’t have to worry about in-person COVID.
The last point I would like to make is while we have started to pay less attention to the rise in COVID cases, we need to keep stressing that people stay home if they are sick. This may seem like a no-brainer right now but again, cases are going up! Some people are continuing to travel with COVID. If they continue to get spaces where they can spread, we may never see the end of this pandemic in our lifetimes. So many of us are ready for normal, mask-free life again but if we aren’t holding each other accountable, how will that happen?
I am ready for our WordCamps again. I have talked about the importance of tech meetups before and I’m ready to build those meaningful relationships again. I am ready to eat greasy food while some random person rants about why the uppercase P is the most important thing that will ever happen to WordPress ever. But I am also ready to recognize that if we aren’t doing the work to get back to those times safely, we should probably be all virtual again.