HEALTH/SAFETY Updates for Fall 2022 Gathering

Dear Billys –

It was unfortunate that we had a number of people test positive for COVID at our Summer Gathering. In establishing our protocol, we looked closely at what other organizations have been doing as well as the Federal, State and local recommendations, and we have been more conservative than those requirements and/or standards in our gatherings. Considering the presence of a particularly virulent strain during the Summer Gathering gathering; the simple fact that nothing is fool-proof; that we have chosen to strike a balance between “as safe as we can” and “gathering in-person”; and most importantly, individual decisions;  we’ve done well. Therefore while we plan to add a few added precautions (add a bit more caution) we plan to keep our protocols largely the same. Those changes are included below.

What we did learn from the Summer Gathering is the importance of individual choices and responsibility. We experience not only the variety of personal health conditions or those of our families at home, but also the life experiences that lead us to different decisions. All valid, all important as we support our whole community. For example, two people with exactly the same health status, may, for reasons of different life experiences, come to different decisions about attending a gathering with a particular set of health/safety protocols in place. Let’s remember to respect and support ALL those differences. Exercise

First, a few notes:

PCR tests – Because of the greater accuracy, we considered requiring PCR tests before attending. However, while they are becoming more accessible, they may require work from some people to get access too; they take more time; are more expensive; and while much better than antigen (home) test, it is still not fool-proof, given timing, that we are still traveling, putting gas in the car, etc. In addition, we see very few other organizations requiring this. So, we’ve decided against this. We may have the benefit of the ability to do limited PCR tests at the gathering, which can be used although testing at the gathering is already too late. However, noting that if we choose to PCR test everyone as they arrive, it would be too late both for potential exposure and the time and effort for those traveling to the gathering.

Individual Responsibility / “Safer Gathering” – The most important point in avoiding COVID, is making choices that are right for each of us, it resides in individual responsibility. The reason for the documented, clear agreement on a set of COVID protocols provided before arrival is to give everyone the information on what we, as participants, are agreeing to, and will abide by. The creation of these agreements is to create a balance between the differences between us all, which means sometimes we don’t have the gathering, but never means “risk free”.  It means that it will feel restrictive for some of us, and will not restrictive enough for others (choosing not to attend). Some of us have more precarious health issues or of someone in our family; some of us will weigh the risk differently against the isolation depending on our individual living situation, but most of all, we are not the same people.  We come from other life experiences that influence our comfort or where we strike a balance with those decisions. Two people in exactly the same circumstances, may come to different decisions, and that is OK. We support everyone’s decision. Ultimately, everyone needs to take responsibility for their own decision about attending, given the protocol and measures we are agreeing to as a community, and if you do come, it also means abiding by the agreements made fully in support of everyone attending.

Registration fee reimbursement:
   Unfortunately we do not have the resources to continue to offer a 100%, right up to the last moment, refund for those that test positive for COVID the day before arriving.  As with all illness, it does not mean that the food purchased several days before the gathering or the facility cancellation fees don’t exist.  The Billy Foundation has had to pay them and lost a lot of money at the last gathering because of this.  As a non-profit we simply can not afford to pay those ourselves.  In alignment with most other organizations, we are reverting to our “normal” cancellation policy that states that reimbursement is anything we can reimburse minus a small administrative fee and whatever expenses have not already incurred.  Please review our reimbursement policy for specifics.  To limit exposure to that possibility, we strongly recommend, as with any illness or any vacation or trip, use care in the days leading up to the event.  Limit exposure to the public and paying special attention to your health in the days leading up to the event.

CHANGES to current health Safety Protocol:

1) We will go back to wearing a mask indoors at all times, except in housing situations while seated, actively eating. We will be doing this although it isn’t currently required by the state. It isn’t that difficult, and while there is debate about how effective it is, at the least it demonstrates an awareness and respect from one another, and it limits us touching our face which is a way to spread it.

2) The addition of disinfectant sprays, and hand sanitizers throughout. Fomites (definition: An object that is capable of transmitting infectious organisms from one individual to another. e.g. door knobs, tables, or other surfaces), are considered a major culprit in the transmission of the virus, and in high risk areas such as hospitals, they frequently wipe surfaces, and disinfect hands. The idea is to not let any residual contact.

3) Monkey Pox  “Mpox”:   Phew! On top of it all, we have more to consider, and/however, we always will…

While we recommend trying to get the Mpox vaccine, we are all in different places regarding availability.  Some of us have gotten the first vaccine, while many are still trying.  Let’s be mindful of and respect our differences by remembering to ask for permission/consent before hugging.  Currently there is no convenient way (such as the CDC COVID 19 card) to prove vaccination status, so we can only advise you.
There are guides available on how to minimize exposure, which we will include to help our community.
If you think you have been exposed to Mpox, or have any symptoms associated with it, please stay home.
Many venues for gay men’s activities have canceled them in July and early Aug., however they are currently resuming with similar warnings. As with COVID, you need to exercise individual responsibility in deciding if you want to attend. As with COVID, there is always a risk. We will continue to update you with information about precautions you can take to avoid exposure, but in the end, the decision is yours, and we support you in that decision.
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Fall Gathering 2022 Health Safety Protocol / Safer Gathering

Requirements for COVID:

  1. Proof of being fully vaccinated for COVID 19, and at least 1 booster is required to register for gathering.
  2. Obtain a negative COVID test result (home antigen rapid tests acceptable) taken within 24 hours of arriving.  Also recommended to limit contact with the general public before attending the gathering including 5 days or more prior to taking the test.
  3. Masks are required at all indoor locations and optional at outdoor locations.  Also always respect others desire to maintain six foot social distancing. Exception to the indoor masking is while seated actively eating and for housing provided everyone sharing the space is in agreement.
  4. Wash & sanitize your hands and disinfect any frequently touched surfaces.  Sanitation supplies will be provided, please use them to regularly wipe down surfaces such as bathroom; table tops, door knobs, etc., any place you use.
  5. If you are sick, for ANY reason, please stay home.

Monkey Pox (Mpox):

  1. If possible, get the Mpox vaccine.  However, also recognizing that not everyone will have been able to get it, due to shortages, please respect those differences and become familiar with the CDC guidelines on Safer Social Gatherings and Safer Sex.
  2. Exercise consent.  Ask before hugging another.

These requirements could change further.