It goes without saying, we at PartySlate have missed celebrating life’s milestones in person. While we expect virtual and hybrid events to be part of the “new normal” going forward, we are eager to reconnect in person. Thankfully, hope is on the horizon. With on-site rapid testing (along with vaccine distribution) now available, in-person celebrations can once again take place.
The event industry, hit hard by COVID-19, has continually evolved and adapted throughout the pandemic. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the event industry would also lead the way in developing new ways to make live gatherings as safe as possible.
Meet the Experts
The Event Doc, the first event concierge mobile COVID-19 testing company, brings together leading experts in the COVID-19 testing field and the event industry. Steve Paster, President of Alpine Creative Group — a luminary in the event industry for over 30 years — saw the need to facilitate an environment where guests, party hosts, and staff felt safe to gather in person. Inevitably, that would require on-site COVID-19 rapid testing.
With that in mind, Paster asked Physician Scientist Dr. Chris Min, a friend of many years, to help come up with the best rapid testing program for in-person events. “We got together with specialists in the event industry and medical field to put together a testing methodology that would work specifically for the event community.” He continues, “We developed this by event people, for event people.”
Ben Parnassi, like Paster, has a rich history in the event industry as the President of The Lighter Side — an international lighting design and special events production company. Parnassi used this knowledge and experience to create Urgent Source, a premier supplier of product sourcing and distribution. Urgent Source also developed a rapid COVID-19 testing system for groups, events, and corporate bookings.
The event industry, hit hard by COVID-19, has continually evolved and adapted throughout the pandemic.”
We sat down with both leading event experts to learn more about how in-person rapid testing works — and why an event host should consider it for their live celebration. Keep reading to learn about how this new and innovative technology can create a safer environment for live events. After a year of so much loss and hardship, we are ready to commemorate life’s major milestones — together — once again.
1. What is On-Site COVID-19 Mobile Testing and How Does it Work?
According to the Food and Drug Administration, “Rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests use a mucus sample from the nose or throat that can be analyzed at the doctor’s office or clinic where the sample is collected and results may be available in minutes.”
Of adapting this technology to the events world, Paster tells us, “When someone comes into an event, we have a front-of-house employee — a coordinator — that has everyone on a list, and we have a priority system through DocuSign where they can sign up for specific testing times.” He notes that guests are also given a liability form to sign.
“After that, we bring them to one of our stations where we either have a nurse or an MD that is doing the testing,” Paster says. “We do not allow self testing.” The Event Doc team also exclusively utilizes skilled medical professionals during the testing process.
“After the testing process is complete, the guest receives a wristband that indicates to others that they have tested negative.”
2. How and Where is Event Testing Set Up?
Parnassi informs us that he tests clients before they even enter the party. “Most of the time the guest or client stays in the car. So we go to them,” he says. Their team creates clean, disinfected stations with proper cleaning disinfecting solutions, masks, shield, gloves, and more.
But what about mobile testing units set up at the entrance or within the event space? How do you make the experience look and feel safe while still maintaining the integrity of the party aesthetic?
Bob Conti, Partner at Ed Libby Events and a member of The Event Doc advisory panel, explains, “We are obviously trying to mitigate any problems. We want the host to be comfortable, and we want all of the guests to be comfortable coming to a party. We have to make the testing sound, look, and work for the party.” He suggests doing an extended cocktail hour during the testing as a way to maintain a cohesive flow of events while testing is being completed.
3. What Are the Regulations Around Testing?
It is essential that party hosts research the credentials of any testing company. Parnassi says that companies must be insured at the venue and use FDA-approved testing.
According to Paster, “The way that the FDA had things set up is that if you are running a lab, you need something called the CLIA certification authorizing you to do testing.” Unfortunately, he tells us, not all companies follow this protocol.
Paster emphasizes that The Event Doc is a medical test. “It’s not somebody who was a travel agent or a plumber buying a bunch of test kits and saying, ‘I’m a testing company,’” he explains.
Companies are also required to report to the State Board of Health if there is a positive test result. So if necessary, they have the entire guest list to do contract tracing. This is why it’s so important to have medical professionals conducting the tests. Paster says, “Somebody who is not a doctor or doesn’t have a medical background is not going to know to do that — or even know how to do that.”
4. How Do You Determine What Sort of Budget You Need for On-Site Rapid Testing?
Parnassi says it’s all about “location and time.” Paster adds, “Unfortunately, testing is expensive. There’s no way to get around it.” He goes to say, “Also, unfortunately, the companies we use such as Abbott Labs and Becton Dickinson do not discount their tests no matter how many you order.” He does add that he hopes price points go down, comparing it to the fall of PC computer prices over time.
“Our basic price structure is up to 50 guests, we charge a flat fee of $7500, which is $150 per person.” He adds, “For anything over 50, we discount it to $120 per person. Every hour that we extend the test window, we charge an additional $500.”
Paster explains that event testing, while expensive, is something that party hosts should definitely consider incorporating into their budget. Like party décor and catering, rapid testing is an element that will make your celebration a successful event.
5. Do You Need to Shut Down the Whole Event if Someone Tests Positive?
Luckily, you do not need to shut down the entire celebration due to a positive test. Following a positive test, The Event Doc testing area gets shut down for sterilization. This takes about 15 to 20 minutes before testing can start up again.
Min says,“In the medical profession, the precautions that we use, the masks that we wear, the gloves that we wear, are designed so that we as staff are protected.” This maintains infectious control. “This is also why it’s so important to only use trained healthcare workers to administer these tests.”
You can also minimize interactions by having guests wear masks during the testing process. “There’s no physical contact between the tester and the person receiving their test,” Dr. Min says. “The only connection between the two people is through the swab.”
Parnassi reminds us that it’s also important to connect a guest who has tested positive with an internist and provide a list of next steps to take.
Following these protocols, it’s possible to create a testing environment that protects guests as much as possible.
6. Do people who have been vaccinated or have a recent PCR test need to get tested?
Parnassi tells us that most clients will still require vaccinated guests to be tested — at least for the foreseeable future. “It’s the most up-to-date, accurate way of knowing if someone is positive and doesn’t show symptoms,” he explains.
7. In Addition to Testing, What Are Some of the Things That You Can Do in the Planning Stages to Ensure Guests, Party Hosts, and Vendors Feel Comfortable?
Without missing a beat, Owner of Guerdy Design and member of The Event Doc advisory panel Geurdy Abraira, says, “Location, location, location.” Each state has different social distancing requirements, and it’s important to choose a venue that accommodates those requirements. This includes room size, capacity, and guest count.
The next important thing to consider, Guerdy tells us, is the communication between you and your guests. For example, you need to let guests know that onsite Covid testing will be implemented. “The more you communicate with them to let them know how safe your event is,” Guerdy says, “The more likely someone will say, ‘Ok, I’ll attend this event because I know I’m going to be safe.’”
Guerdy reminds us, however, that testing is just one component. “Even with the test results…you still want to ensure multi-level layers of protection and safety for your guests.” This includes offering masks to your guests, keeping staff masked, and multiple sanitation stations.
PartySlate is here to help you plan your next celebration — be it a virtual, hybrid, or live event. Head to our curated directory to find a talented team of party vendors to bring your best ideas to life.
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It’s time to start celebrating life’s most important milestones. Help is just a click away.