We are looking forward to gathering in person at DrupalCon Pittsburgh!
And current projections show that many will be gathering: registrations are up 32% over last year.
There is much work being done to make DrupalCon Pittsburgh the ultimate Drupal event in North America, one that generates excitement for Drupal and spurs the creativity that abounds within the Drupal Community.
We also recognize that we’re doing this planning work amid rapidly changing pandemic conditions. The Drupal Association has been monitoring COVID-19 trends and has seen a marked decrease in Covid-19 cases both nationally and in Pittsburgh. The CDC reports that weekly cases since January for the U.S. have dropped 67%, and for Allegheny County (which incorporates Pittsburgh), it has dropped 60%. Pittsburgh is currently rated as “low risk” by the CDC. This assessment is matched by the World Health Organization’s trends, which show a significant decline in cases in the U.S.
This is GREAT news! News that I hope makes everyone feel more comfortable in joining us in Pittsburgh.
Some have been asking if that means we are going to change our health and safety policies for this event.
In January, we updated our health and safety policies prior to opening registration. This update removed a vaccine or daily testing requirement, but retained masking indoors. Let me explain why.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Drupal Association to implement extraordinary measures to protect our community. At the same time, we knew the situation would constantly evolve, and our response would also have to evolve. We knew we would have to closely monitor medical, scientific, and public health data and make appropriate changes to the DrupalCon Health and Safety Policies.
We decided early on that we needed a decision rooted in our values: DrupalCon should be a safe, accessible, and inclusive space for everyone in our community. It is often the most vulnerable in our community who are left behind, and so we felt it important to ensure our criteria for policy changes centered on those most at risk.
With that value at heart, we looked at the following criteria:
- Public health metrics and recommendations from International and National organizations such as the WHO and CDC, including whether these organizations have updated their designation from pandemic to endemic.
- Medical/Scientific studies being released by reputable, peer-reviewed sources.
- Comparable industry events whose values align with our own, especially other Drupal community events.
- Pragmatic and logistical constraints for us and attendees in event planning.
This last bullet is worth a bit more explanation. The Association realized a decision was needed prior to opening registration for each event and then to stick to the decision. Attendees register with the expectations presented at the time of registration and changing after the fact can make some participants feel like the rules are changing against them unfairly and cause them to question our reasoning. We have observed other conferences that changed health & safety policies mid-registration with significant consequences.. Our default position is to change policies between events’ registration periods, but not during.
So how have we used those criteria with our values so far?
In 2020, with no vaccines approved and clear national guidance and legal mandates, it was clear that both DrupalCon North America and Europe would have to become virtual events. Both were held successfully, and we even had an influx of first time attendees who would not otherwise have been able to attend.
In 2021, although the first vaccines were now available under an emergency use authorization, they would not receive full FDA approval until August of that year. At the same time, the pattern of multiple infection waves and new variants had become apparent, and vaccination rates and hospitalization levels were still very high. Both DrupalCon events would again be virtual in 2021.
In 2022, most national and regional public health recommendations began to allow for in-person events again. After a review of Oregon and Multnomah county public health mandates and metrics, it was decided that a Vaccine-or-daily-test requirement and masking was required. Metrics in Europe improved more rapidly than those in North America, and thus DrupalCon Prague did not require vaccination but did include a mask requirement.
So where does that leave us in 2023?
We are monitoring the trends but have not changed our health and safety policy for DrupalCon Pittsburgh.
We are following our default position of maintaining policies in place at registration opening. COVID-19 is still identified as a pandemic, with new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths still occurring.
But monitoring is appropriate, as is evolving. If the recent very positive trends continue, the health numbers for Covid prevalence in Pittsburgh may be very low by June. Consequently, some attendees may be frustrated by these continued safety measures and this may affect compliance at the event. A lack of compliance undermines the health benefits of our health and safety policies.
Thus, community feedback is crucial.
I invite feedback from the Drupal community on this blog post and our health and safety policies for DrupalCon Pittsburgh. How we can create an inviting and welcoming atmosphere for all community members amidst a changing world of health metrics.
If you’re so inclined, please share your thoughts with us.
DrupalCon Lille 2023
This month has been the same time window where we have to utilize these decision making criteria to set our policies for DrupalCon Lille.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) and French national guidelines recommend but do not require masking in any setting, including hospitals and nursing homes, though it is still recommended in gatherings with vulnerable people. Vaccination and testing requirements for entry to the country have not been required for about a year.
- The entire country of France has a rate of hospital admissions and covid-related deaths comparable to just Alleghany County(where Pittsburgh is located) in the USA. The per-capita daily mortality rate due to covid in all of France is less than 10% the rate in Alleghany County.
- Regional events in Europe have almost entirely eliminated their extraordinary covid measures.
Therefore, we anticipate that DrupalCon Lille will not be requiring proof of vaccination, daily testing, or masking (though masking is still recommended).
We hope that this retrospective and more detailed explanation of our DrupalCon health and safety policy decision criteria is helpful.
I look forward to gathering with the Drupal community in Pittsburgh, meeting as many people as possible, and hearing your ideas about how we can advance Drupal.