Meetups in the era of COVID-19

I’m sure no one here re­mains un­aware of the fact that we’re in the midst of a pan­demic. My goal with this post is to help meetup or­ga­niz­ers help their com­mu­ni­ties deal with this situ­a­tion. I know that some com­mu­ni­ties have already pre­emp­tively can­celed events, and that oth­ers live in ar­eas that have already been hit hard enough that this mes­sage is too lit­tle, too late. I hope that those of you in the lat­ter situ­a­tion are stay­ing safe.

When should we stop hav­ing mee­tups?

I recom­mend that you stop hold­ing mee­tups im­me­di­ately, re­gard­less of your lo­ca­tion. It’s abun­dantly clear that con­tain­ment mea­sures have failed, so even if your city isn’t cur­rently in crisis, it’s un­likely that that will re­main the case for long. At this point, we should be aiming to “flat­ten the curve” – that is, to slow the spread of the dis­ease so that hos­pi­tals don’t have to op­er­ate above ca­pac­ity for long pe­ri­ods. If we can achieve this, a greater pro­por­tion of ill peo­ple will have ac­cess to pro­fes­sional med­i­cal care, which will re­duce mor­tal­ity rates.

This pop­u­lar ar­ti­cle makes a good case for act­ing now.

If you are adamant about wait­ing to sus­pend your mee­tups (maybe you live some­where re­mote and sparsely pop­u­lated with ex­cel­lent test­ing pro­to­col… but prob­a­bly not), this spread­sheet pro­vides a crude math­e­mat­i­cal model to calcu­late risks from hold­ing gath­er­ings, based on the con­firmed COVID-19 cases (or deaths) in your area and the size of your gath­er­ing. I en­courage you to reach out to me di­rectly if you are think­ing of con­tin­u­ing to hold events go­ing for­ward; it’s my im­pres­sion that this is cur­rently just a bad idea, but I’m open to talk­ing one-on-one about your par­tic­u­lar situ­a­tion.

What can I do for my com­mu­nity?

How can I help my com­mu­nity pre­pare for COVID-19?

Not hold­ing events is a good first step, of course. For more on what to do, I sug­gest​​covid-pre­pared­ness. This is a doc­u­ment about how to pre­pare for a COVID-19 pan­demic, and while I am not a do­main ex­pert, the doc­u­ment is open-source and pro­vides cita­tions, which means you can as­sess the ev­i­dence for your­self and sug­gest cor­rec­tions if you think any­thing is wrong.

Here is a bul­leted list of pri­or­ity in­ter­ven­tions:

  • Ed­u­cate your com­mu­nity about proper hy­giene and so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

  • Make sure that ev­ery­one in your com­mu­nity has stocked up on es­sen­tials (food, med­i­ca­tions, toi­let pa­per, etc) to re­duce the chance that they’ll need to visit a store dur­ing a time when do­ing so is likely to en­dan­ger their health.

  • Make sure that ev­ery­one in your com­mu­nity has a plan for what to do in the event that they or some­one in their house­hold con­tracts COVID-19.

How can I keep my com­mu­nity con­nected when we can’t meet in per­son?

I’ve cre­ated a Dis­cord server so that you can keep the con­ver­sa­tion go­ing even when you can’t meet in per­son! We can cre­ate sep­a­rate chan­nels for each differ­ent group, and it should be easy to have voice or video calls over Dis­cord at your nor­mal group meet­ing time. (I’m a Dis­cord noob, but I think it should be pos­si­ble to make chan­nels pri­vate as well.) Reg­u­lar meetup or­ga­niz­ers will be made ad­mins, and I’ll be available to help set things up if you have ques­tions.

This is the in­vite link to the server: https://​​dis­​​hfyRcfk. You can send it out to ev­ery­one in your meetup group (it’s set to not ex­pire). And please let me know if you’d like to help mod­er­ate the server!

Ad­di­tional resources

There are thou­sands of COVID-19 re­sources float­ing around out there, and at this point it’s re­ally hard to ori­ent to all of them. The LessWrong team has cre­ated a database where they are at­tempt­ing to ag­gre­gate all of these re­sources and pre­sent them in a com­pre­hen­si­ble, user-friendly way.

Don’t hes­i­tate to reach out if you have any ques­tions or con­cerns, and please try to stay safe!