Prides at risk as experts predict COVID-19 will peak in May and June

Prides at risk as experts predict COVID-19 will peak in May and June

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The head of Europe’s Pride organisation has confirmed that some Pride events this summer will be affected by the outbreak of coronavirus that is sweeping the continent.

Meanwhile Prides across the world, including in the US and Canada are also considering their strategies for dealing with COVID-19.

Some experts believe the coronavirus will peak in May and June, the heart of the Pride season in many countries.

A crisis conference call on Monday saw 70 Pride organisers discuss how they can make contingency plans. 

The meeting included representatives of Prides in Africa, North America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

It comes as countries including France and Switzerland ban or limit events. Meanwhile the whole of Italy has shut down to fight the virus.

Kristine Garina, President of the European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA), said:

‘Coronavirus is presenting a new challenge for all governments and organisations, and Prides are no different.

‘The unique challenge for Prides is that most are entirely volunteer organisations, where people have to juggle this additional complexity alongside a career or being a full-time carer. We’re doing all we can to help Pride organisers navigate through this challenge.’

EPOA is urging Prides to follow World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance and ensure that they make plans ahead of their event, think about impact during their event, and how they will manage issues after the event.

They are also urging Prides to engage with funders and sponsors to talk about financial impact.

Make contingency plans

EPOA recommends Pride organizers:

  • Have a contingency plan.
  • Include event partners in your partners, including suppliers for the event.
  • Appoint one senior person to lead on COVID-19 to lead on this and nothing else.
  • Ensure everyone in the team knows the contingency plan.
  • Have clear lines of authority for decisions, particularly in a critical situation.
  • Develop messaging now if you have to cancel or postpone.

They say even if events go ahead, coronavirus may mean that fewer people turn up. Moreover they urge organizers to think what will happen if ‘only a third’ of volunteers arrive to help.

Meanwhile, they suggest Pride bosses discuss how cancellation or smaller crowds may affect traders or LGBT+ organizations who attend.

And organizers should think what happens to sponsors and funders if they cancel event or fewer people turn up.

EPOA warns insurers will not cover cancellation or postponement related to coronavirus.

On the call, Pride bosses were asked: ‘If you take a significant financial hit because of the coronavirus impact, what would the impact be on your organisation long term?’

And it says, suppliers may need at least 28 days notice if Prides want to cancel.

The World Health Organization has issued official guidance for large events.

However, the list of things Pride organizers need to plan for is huge. 

For example, will medical teams need more space at Pride? Bosses can urge people who are unwell to stay away. However, people with coronavirus can fall ill within two hours. So EPOA is asking organizers to consider how they will care for people who do fall ill at the event.

Prides in Bucharest, Sydney and LA respond to crisis

On the call, people learned that Pride in Bucharest is postponing until at least September.

Andrew Baker, co-president of InterPride briefed Pride bosses about Sydney Mardi Gras. It took place from 14 February to 1 March, as the crisis started.

Baker said: ‘They did very specific planning around COVID. They wanted to note that during and throughout the festival, there was no evidence of community transmission within Australia. 

‘So they started taking key actions on 30 January and worked with independent risk advisors.’

At the time, they had to make contingency plans for poor air quality due to bush fires in Australia too.

But they promoted handwashing and worked closely with health officials, including the World Health Organization. Because of the diverse crowds at Mardi Gras, including overseas visitors, they issued advice in multiple languages, including Chinese.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Pride said it hoped to still go ahead in 2020 – their 50th anniversary year.

The main LA Pride event is due 12 to 14 June. Organizer Madonna Cacciatore said they can postpone but believe they may still be able to run the full festival.

She added: ‘At this moment in time we are moving forward but we have a committee of people very closely monitoring the situation.We have department heads working on different aspects of the festival. Additionally this is our 50th anniversary so we are expanding our footprint. 

‘Currently we are standing back a little bit for a couple of weeks to see how it plays out.’

Prides will be back with a vengeance

Kristine Garina of EPOA is also the organiser of Baltic Pride in Riga, Latvia.

She said: ‘It is ironic that over the last few decades various politicians, presidents, prime ministers, mayors, archbishops and other bigots have done their best to thwart and cancel Pride parades, but it was mother nature who succeeded.

‘The admirable resilience of Pride organisers has met a challenge for the health of our wider community, and that means that some events will inevitably face cancellation, curtailment or postponement.’

As many as 1,000 Prides were expected to take place in Europe in 2020. 

Right now, EPOA does not know how many will be affected. But Garina said that the whole LGBT+ community should work together to support their local Pride:

‘Volunteer Pride organisers give up endless hours of their free time to make Pride happen, and it’s often without thanks. This year is going to be especially challenging, and the emotional strain shouldn’t be underestimated.

‘Whatever the impact in 2020, we are confident that even those Prides affected this year will be back next year with a vengeance.’

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Author: Tris Reid-Smith