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Are Big Events Legally Required to Protect Attendees From COVID-19?

What Safety Measures Should Large Events Follow During COVID-19?

With more than 8 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19, the United States continues to struggle with the pandemic. Big events might be legally permissible now, but event organizers are still expected to follow a lot of safety guidelines. Those who ignore legally required COVID-19 precautions may be liable for any attendees who get sick at their event.

Indoor and Outdoor Events Must Limit Their Amount of Occupants

One of the biggest legal requirements for big events is that the number of attendees be limited. Occupancy limits during COVID are meant to prevent crowding and help with social distancing. The exact amount of people allowed at any event will depend on the size and location of the event. Maximum allowed occupancy is based on the event space's previously established occupancy limit from the National Fire Protection Association. For indoor events with a maximum occupancy of under 2,000 people, the event can host up to 20% of its maximum occupancy rate. Indoor events with a usual maximum occupancy between 2,001 to 10,000 can only fill up to a 15% capacity. Larger spaces with a normal capacity of more than 10,000 have a COVID-19 occupancy rate of 10% of their usual occupancy. Indoor events right now may not host more than 3,750 people at a time. The maximum occupancy limits are a little more relaxed for outdoor events. If the space has a usual occupancy of less than 2,000, it can host up to 25% of its usual occupancy. For outdoor events in a space with an occupancy of 2,001 to 10,000, the COVID-19 capacity is 20% of the typical rate. If the outdoor event venue has an occupancy of more than 10,000, it can have up to 15% of the occupancy rate. However, no outdoor large event may exceed 7,500 people.

Attendees Must Social Distance

The Pennsylvanian COVID-19 safety orders state that venues are legally required to ensure that people are social distancing at their event. There are several ways that event organizers can fulfill this instruction to keep attendees six feet apart. The simplest is just putting up signs stating that social distancing is required. However, some Allentown personal injury lawyers are concerned that a sign might not be enough to mitigate liability. Instead, to fully protect their patrons, event organizers should be actively planning ways of creating social distance. This includes setting tables and chairs farther apart or blocking off seating that's set too closely together. If the event involves people waiting in line or standing in groups, using barriers to keep people six feet apart may be effective. Having regular loudspeaker reminders to social distance can help keep distracted attendees from getting too close, too.

Alcohol Sales May Be Prohibited

There has been a lot of concern surrounding sales of alcohol at events because intoxicated attendees are less likely to follow social distancing guidelines. Therefore, Pennsylvania has reduced the places where alcohol may be served. Events can only provide patrons with alcohol when it's purchased as part of a meal. This means that venues like outdoor concerts can't sell individual alcoholic beverages to attendees.

Mask Wearing Is Required

Right now, Pennsylvania is requiring all members of the public to wear masks when they leave their homes. However, this doesn't mean venues can just leave all mask wearing responsibility up to their individual customers. Event organizers have a duty to ensure that attendees are following this law because it helps to ensure they're providing a safe environment. This is addressed in Pennsylvania's COVID-19 safety measures, which state that venues must require attendees to wear masks. A venue that lets people in without a mask may be held responsible for COVID-19 spread. In addition to checking for masks upon entry, venues are also encouraged to have staff circulating and reminding attendees to wear masks. They may want to provide extra masks in case attendees forget theirs at home. Furthermore, all event employees are also required to wear masks. If an event tries to keep employees from wearing masks, then they're directly ignoring COVID-19 safety measures. In cases where staff or attendees aren't wearing masks, Allentown personal injury lawyers may be able to build a premises liability case against the venue.

Event Venues Are Required to Observe General Best Practices

In addition to their more specific COVID-19 safety guidelines, Pennsylvania's Department of Health also requires all event venues to follow best practices for COVID prevention. This is a general list of health and safety suggestions recommended by the CDC. Businesses aren't strictly obligated to follow these guidelines if they're impossible to implement. However, they're expected to do their best to meet these best practices whenever feasible. Some suggested best practices include:
  • Use timed entry to reduce the number of people on site
  • Provide multiple restrooms that are cleaned regularly
  • Have hygiene stations stocked with hand sanitizer and masks
  • Use stickers, signs, and barriers to provide social distancing regulations
  • Prevent reuse of pens and other materials by purchasing large amounts
  • Screen employees with temperature checks before shifts
  • Require frequent handwashing among employees
  • Switch to touchless pay systems
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces as often as possible
Basically, an event needs to show it's doing everything reasonable to keep attendees safe. Having a clear COVID avoidance plan in place and taking extra safety measures may make it less likely for COVID-19 to spread during an event.

What Should You Do If an Event Is Ignoring Legal Safety Requirements?

Event organizers and venues have a duty to keep people on their premises safe. If you get sick at an event where an organization is ignoring COVID safety guidelines, you may be able to sue them. If your claims are successful, the event organizers or venue may owe you compensation for medical bills, time spent unable to work, or loss of future capability. However, things aren't quite as simple as just attending an event, seeing people without a mask, and collecting a big paycheck. Like any other lawsuit, you'll need to show that the event had a duty to keep you safe, that the event failed to keep you safe, and that you were personally harmed by this breach of duty. Any event that's ignoring safety measures during the pandemic is definitely breaching its duty to the public. However, the tricky part will be showing that the event's failure directly harmed you. COVID personal injury lawsuits can be complicated because you'll need to prove that the negligence of the event directly resulted in you getting COVID-19. Unless you were quarantined beforehand, it can be hard to show that you caught COVID at the event. This doesn't mean it's impossible to win a COVID-19 lawsuit, but you need to be prepared with plenty of evidence and an experienced attorney. To get the best possible outcome for your case, you need a good Allentown personal injury lawyer on your side. Metzger & Kleiner is here to help if you think you might have a reason to file a COVID personal injury claim. Our team of legal experts has plenty of experience handling the intricacies of these sorts of cases. Contact us today at our Lehigh Valley office at (610) 435-7400 or our Philadelphia office at (215) 567-6616 to schedule a consultation.

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