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

by Linch1 min read26th Feb 202020 comments



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.