Skip navigation

Office of the Provost

COVID-19 Event Planning Guidelines

Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. USM-Specific Guidelines for University-Hosted Events (General Public)
  3. USM-Specific Guidelines for Student-Hosted Events
  4. USM-Specific Guidelines for Ticketed Events (Student or University-Hosted)
  5. USM-Specific Guidelines for External Group Events (Reserved Space Required)
  6. General Health Guidelines for Events
  7. Health Messaging Guidelines
  8. Considerations for General Event Planning
  9. Considerations for Physical Venues
  10. Considerations for Food Service at Events
  11. Considerations for Event Contracting
  12. Resources

 

Overview

This document provides guidelines for adoption of appropriate plans at the unit levels for event management within Academic and Student Affairs.  All event planners will be expected to vet their unit plans appropriately and as needed with event collaborators and chains-of-command within the institution.  Event organizers should assess, based on current conditions, whether to postpone or cancel, or significantly reduce the number of attendees for events, and seek approval of final decisions from their unit director, who should consult with executive leadership as needed.

All event plans must be flexible to adapt quickly to evolving federal, state, local, and institutional guidelines, which are subject to change during the event planning period.

For the purposes of this document, an “event” shall be defined as any gathering of 10 or more people (faculty, staff, students, or external constituents) who are gathering on University property, or on University-affiliated properties, for purposes that include but are not limited to: social, programmatic, organizational operation, or training-based needs. This does not include study groups of five or less, directly related pieces to the academic experience (i.e. labs, studio practices, etc.) or such things as athletic practices, or academic group tutoring.

Note: These guidelines are applicable to event management in Academic and Student Affairs. Policies regarding athletic competitions will be developed separately to align with National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Conference USA requirements.

 

USM-Specific Guidelines for University-Hosted Events (General Public)

  • Secure approval for the event from the appropriate Vice President.
  • Limit attendance to no more than 1/3 of seating capacity allowed in the facility/venue until further notice.
  • Adhere to physical distancing measures (minimally 6 feet of distance between individuals) along with other protocols for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 included in the General Guidelines for Events section below.
  • Anticipate additional costs for set-up. Some event spaces may be dual use and require additional costs for transitioning between events.
  • When applicable, have plans for entering and exiting the venue to minimize close contact and large crowds in lobbies, foyer areas, at exits, and on stairways.
  • Expect other requirements to minimize the spread of COVID-19. These may include hand-sanitizing stations, temperature checks, and/or face coverings. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.
  • Social gatherings (e.g. receptions or similar events) that may normally accompany some events are not allowed until further notice.
  • For outdoor events, align participant levels with the most stringent guidelines provided by the CDC, federal, state and local government.
  • Hold outdoor events only in controlled access locations. Unlimited attendance at outdoor concerts or other events will not be allowed.
  • Do not include inflatables or high touch types of equipment at events.

 

USM-Specific Guidelines for Student-Hosted Events

  • Events must be registered and approved through the Leadership and Student Involvement office no less than three weeks in advance.
  • Limit attendance to no more than 1/3 of seating capacity allowed in the facility/venue until further notice.
  • Adhere to physical distancing measures (minimally 6 feet of distance between individuals) along with other protocols for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 included in this document.
  • When applicable, have plans for entering and exiting the venue to minimize close contact and large crowds in lobbies, foyer areas, at exits, and on stairways.
  • Expect other requirements to minimize the spread of COVID-19. These may include hand-sanitizing stations, temperature checks, and/or face coverings. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.
  • Social gatherings (e.g. receptions or similar events) that may normally accompany some events are not allowed until further notice.
  • For outdoor events, align participant levels with the most stringent guidelines provided by the CDC, federal, state and local government.
  • Hold outdoor events only in controlled access locations. Unlimited attendance at outdoor concerts or other events will not be allowed.
  • Do not include inflatables or high touch types of equipment at events.

 

USM-Specific Guidelines for Ticketed Events (Student- or University-Hosted)

  • Sell tickets for no more than 1/3 of the seating capacity allowed in the facility/venue until further notice.
  • Adhere to physical distancing measures (minimally 6 feet of distance between individuals) along with other protocols for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 included in this document.
  • When applicable, have plans for entering and exiting the venue to minimize close contact and large crowds in lobbies, foyer areas, at exits, and on stairways.
  • Expect other requirements to minimize the spread of COVID-19. These may include hand sanitizing stations, temperature checks, and/or face coverings. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.
  • Social gatherings (e.g. receptions or similar events) that may normally accompany ticketed events are not allowed until further notice.

 

USM-Specific Guidelines for External Group Events (Reserved Space Required)

The reserved facility/venue may have additional guidelines beyond the following:

  • Limit attendance to no more than 1/3 of seating capacity allowed in the facility/venue until further notice.
  • Adhere to physical distancing measures (minimally 6 feet of distance between individuals) along with other protocols for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 included in this document.
  • When applicable, have plans for entering and exiting the venue to minimize close contact and large crowds in lobbies, foyer areas, at exits, and on stairways.
  • Expect other requirements to minimize the spread of COVID-19. These may include hand-sanitizing stations, temperature checks, and/or face coverings. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.
  • Social gatherings (e.g. receptions or similar events) that may normally accompany some events are not allowed until further notice.

All events on USM campuses and sites will adhere to the additional guidelines set forth below.

 

General Health Guidelines for Events

  • All events are expected to follow the health guidelines for University employees as outlined in the protocols/procedures for phased return to work.
  • Face coverings and temperature checks should be required of all staff managing events. Gloves must be worn if public touchpoints are needed.  
  • All high touch areas must be sanitized thoroughly both sufficiently prior to the event, throughout the event and shortly thereafter. 
  • Handwashing and/or sanitizer stations must be visible, easily accessible, and fully stocked during entirety of the event.  
  • Avoid employee and attendee physical contact and adopt alternate options (avoid handshaking, etc.).
  • Limit the duration of the event, i.e. meet no longer than the time needed to complete the task/purpose of the event. 
  • Develop a flexible staffing structure for all events in order to plan for employee absences.
  • All touch surfaces should be minimized to the greatest extent possible. Examples include, but are not limited to:
    • Providing electronic check-in vs. paper/pen sign-ins.  
    • Wiping down technical equipment between programs if it is being shared by presenters. 
    • Avoiding shared microphones if at all possible; disinfecting between usage if not.  
    • Minimizing handouts or other material distributions and moving to digital formats for information distribution.
    • Keeping doors open when fire code permits.

 

Health Messaging Guidelines

  • For general planning and health messaging purposes, no facilities should be reserved less than three weeks out from the event to allow venue/event employees appropriate time to prepare.  
  • Health-related messaging (physical and/or electronic) should begin prior to the event through all available venues, including, but not limited, to websites, social media channels, ticketing, email messaging, mobile apps, and event signage. Official University signage and digital graphics may be downloaded at usm.edu/covid-19/faculty-staff.php#signage.
  • Event organizers should communicate health guidelines to event participants and attendees, including, but not limited to the following: 
    • Screening to identify potential symptoms (fever, cough, etc.) and/or temperature checks may be conducted at the venue.
    • Face coverings will likely be required, in accordance with current institutional and public health guidelines.
    • CDC event recommendations must be followed.
    • Physical distancing will be required.
    • Discourage those who may be sick from attending.
    • The following disclaimer should be included: The venue cannot guarantee that those in attendance are free of COVID-19 or other infectious agents.  


Considerations for General Event Planning

There are a number of factors to consider when event planning during COVID-19. These include:

  • Pursue virtual group events, gatherings, or meetings, if possible.
  • Limit any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities when possible.
  • Pre-schedule patron arrival times, factoring in such things as ticket retrieval, bag/security checks, or ticket placement in the venue.
  • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks or signs on walls to ensure that individuals remain at least 6 feet apart in lines or otherwise in the venue.
  • Provide anticipated wait time signage. 
  • Display physical distancing guidelines.
  • Reflect an effort to move to contactless patron services (ticketing, programs, policies, etc.).
  • Consider ways to stagger ingress in order to minimize lines for wanding, bag check, and ticket scanning.
  • Consider scheduled egress from back to front in venues with auditorium style-seating.


Considerations for Physical Venues

  • Organizers must consider reductions in seating based on CDC, OSHA, federal, state and local governmental guidelines. Seating/occupancy may be based on total number of people or square footage.
  • Designate seating to allow for physical distancing.
  • Provide online pre-ordering opportunities for merchandise and have those items ready for pick-up at the event. If pre-order is not possible, efforts must be made to ensure appropriate distancing and contactless services.
  • Use outdoor venues when feasible due to indoor spaces possibly having poor ventilation and people tending to be closer together indoors.
  • Cap event participation using appropriate participation guidelines as identified by the CDC, federal, state and local governmental authorities.
  • Where possible, livestream events using appropriate digital media to enhance audience capacities.
  • If a large event is scheduled and/or permissible under active guidelines, every effort should be made to find ways to minimize the exposure, including, but not limited to, breaking the large group into small subsets, provided the program may still be distributed equitably.
  • Plan appropriate gaps between events for sanitation/disinfecting purposes. Facilities cannot be expected to turn venues over for multiple events with minimal amounts of time in between.   
  • If applicable, develop a clearly defined refund policy for each event in advance. Related policies should be approved by each unit director, in consultation with executive leadership as needed.


Considerations for Food Service at Events

  • Provide grab-and-go options for meals.
  • Wherever possible, conduct food ordering digitally with pickup. This may include, but is not limited to, single-use menus, QR/app-based ordering, and text notifications that food is ready for pickup from a designated location.  
  • Ensure counter service staff adhere to physical distancing directives and place food/beverages on counters or tables for contactless service.
  • Utilize partitions to create appropriate spacing between employees and patrons.  
  • Where possible or needed, assign Point of Sale (POS) terminals to one individual. Sanitize appropriately if multiple users are needed.
  • Use disposable food service items (e.g., utensils, dishes) if possible.
  • Use condiments that are single-use packaging.  
  • Provide separate entry and exit pathways to and from food service areas.
  • Employ no-contact or low-contact options where possible.
  • Serve food in pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee rather than buffet or family-style meals.


Considerations for Event Contracting

  • Review liability for staff and/or student volunteers prior to each event.
  • Consider cancellation without penalties language and/or force majeure clauses in COVID-19 related situations or when there is tangible evidence of a health risk.  
  • Develop and review rescheduling provisions.  
  • Require all booked talent to produce a written COVID-19 mitigation policy that outlines mitigation procedures including, but not limited to the following: PPE, sanitation, and illness reporting.  



Resources

 

Contact Us

Office of the Provost
Lucas Administration Building

Hattiesburg Campus

Campus Map

Email
provostFREEMississippi

Phone
601.266.5002