First, we want to apologize for the confusion and strife that this change in policy caused for our community. We will be making improvements to our processes due to the lessons learned in this event and are always open to feedback.
We will do everything we can to learn from this event and use it to improve our communication and events in the future.
January 23 – February 17 – Linux Foundation Events team was actively engaging with our consulting epidemiologist on Health & Safety protocols for 2022 events. Based on CDC recommendations and the fact that we were still requiring vaccines and health checks, we did not think dropping the mask mandate posed an increased risk.
February & March (dates vary by event) – Health & Safety pages on 2022 in-person events were updated across the board for 2022, essentially saying that vaccines would still be required, sharing a list of likely on site health & safety protocols and a statement about maks mandates that said that our mask mandate was subject to change and we’ll notify attendees at least one month prior to the event if this was changed. We also are clear that the Covid situation is fluid and everything is subject to change.
“While many municipalities’ mask mandates have been lifted, at this time masks will still be required to be worn at the event. This is subject to change. Registered attendees will be notified 1 month prior to the event of any updates to our mask mandate and other on-site health & safety requirements.”
April 6 – Spain announces they will drop their mask mandate for the first time in the pandemic on April 20th. At that time it was not clear whether large groups would be required to keep them, and that we wouldn’t find that out until April 20th or thereabouts.
Conversations had already been happening on the event team about wanting to remove the mask mandate if possible.
April 7 – Events team meets and recommended dropping the mask mandate if Spain allowed us to, for KubeCon EU and CNCF leadership agreed. We did discuss whether this should be brought up to the CNCF board the following week, and CNCF leadership did not feel it was necessary because of the following reasons:
- We had received advice from Dr. Joel Selanikio, the CDC epidemiologist who has worked with us throughout the pandemic that, based on CDC guidance, because our event participants were all going to be vaccinated, mask or no mask, there was a low risk of both infection and serious illness 
- If the mask mandate was dropped by the country, it was unclear whether we could legally enforce the mandate on local staffers at the venue, and all other vendors (more on this below)
- Many industry events by, and offices of member companies, were removing the mask requirement and it seemed to be a wave going through all areas 
- In most parts of Europe, where the vast majority of attendees are coming from, mask mandates have been dropped for quite some time, some as far back as 2021.
- Additionally, airlines as well as airports and transportation hubs had dropped mandates, as had almost all parts of the US.
- Spain has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world – over 85% of the population is fully vaccinated
- The event has a virtual component to be as inclusive as possible. Those that aren’t vaccinated, or whom don’t feel comfortable traveling to Spain due to their personal risk profiles were already not planning to join in person.
Between April 7 and April 20, messaging was created by the event team around dropping the mask mandate, email text to registered participants, to sponsors, and to post on the website.
April 20 – Spain changes the mask mandate with no requirement to wear face masks indoors except on public transport and in hospitals and retirement homes.
April 21 – Events team receives confirmation from the local government, the Valencia Convention Bureau and Feria Valencia that masks are no longer required for large gatherings as well, and we finalized messaging to update the website and to send to registered participants and sponsors the following morning.
April 22 (morning EU) – Email sent to attendees about dropping the mask requirement although we still recommended them in our messaging. Due to the timeline, it was impossible for us to provide 4 weeks notice.
April 25: Mask mandate reversed due to community feedback, email sent to 5000+ attendees and blog posted apologizing for the confusion: https://www.cncf.io/blog/2022/04/25/clarifying-mask-mandate-update/. We also offered to send a week’s supply of N95 masks to participants if they would like. We have almost 300 people who have requested it.
April 26 – We are still collecting information from the local government, venue and vendors, but it appears that in fact, it is illegal for us to require any local staff working the event to wear masks. We are still collecting details – there are over 50 vendors we need to check with, and we are getting some conflicting information as each company is looking at the government’s order in a different way. We plan to message this out as soon as we feel we have finalized information.
April 27 – We have also confirmed that we will onsite testing on Thursday, May 19 and Friday, May 20 at Feria Valencia. These tests are approved by governments and airlines to be used to gain entry to home countries. Additionally we will have self test kits available onsite for attendee use at any time, to best protect themselves and fellow participants. The onsite testing will be shared along with the message about local staffing and masks as soon as we have all details.
Why Was It Deemed Acceptable to Drop the Mask Mandate?
Based on everything listed below, we felt that it was possible to drop the mask requirement at the events in Spain, though we still recommended them in our messaging:
- Mask mandates had been dropped in countries around Europe (18 countries in the European region, including Spain which dropped it for the first time in the pandemic on April 20) and across the US (the last US state to have a mask mandate in place – Hawaii – dropped theirs on March 25, 2022 though some cities like Philadelphia where cases are high have reinstated) as well as many other countries
- Spain’s entry requirements are that individuals must be fully vaccinated (with a booster if first set of vaccinations was more than 270 days before entry) or a negative Covid test (performed within 72 hours of entry to Spain) or Covid recovery within 180 days of entry
- Many airlines dropped mask mandates in April including Delta, United, Alaska, American, KLM, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic etc. Many airports and mass transit hubs dropped them as well.
- The epidemiologist we have consulted with throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Dr. Joel Selanikio advised that, based on CDC guidance, because our event participants were all going to be vaccinated, mask or no mask, there was a low risk of both infection and serious illness. Dr. Selanikio is an emergency responder and former CDC epidemiologist and outbreak investigator, who served as a consultant epidemiologist to FEMA and the DC Department of Health for the COVID-19 response over 2020-22. In December 2014 – January 2015, he was the lead physician at the IMC Ebola Treatment Center at Lunsar, Sierra Leone.
- The event team are all in favor of recommending, but not requiring masks. Specifically because (1) they trust the guidance given by Dr. Selanikio, (2) because enforcing the mask mandate adds challenges in planning events and onsite; many venues are now saying they won’t require their staff to wear masks even for private events, some attendees became angry, combative and abusive towards the event staff who tried to enforce health & safety protocols last year, and (3) it makes it challenging to serve food & beverage.
- Many other events had been dropping mask requirements and we had not seen big upticks in cases post event. Many companies also dropped mask mandates, and again we had not seen issues stemming from this.
- Serious cases of Covid leading to hospitalizations and or death have dropped.
- Finally it is worth pointing out that because we knew Covid was fluid this year and people’s plans might change – including if we updated our Health & Safety protocols – that our policy has been to offer FULL refunds until the conference begins for each event this year
Slides directly from Dr. Selanikio
Other Conference and Organizations Dropping Mask Mandates
AWS Reinforce (July 2022) – Mask mandate dropped: https://reinforce.awsevents.com/
AWS Summit April 20 (last week): “Masks will not be required at the AWS Summit San Francisco.” https://aws.amazon.com/events/summits/san-francisco/health-measures/?trk=ep_card-amer_ep_card
AWS Summit London Apr 27, 2022”Masks are recommended for everyone at AWS Summit London. AWS will make masks available for all attendees who would like one. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the event space.” https://aws.amazon.com/events/summits/london/
AWS Summit Madrid May 4-5 “No. El uso de mascarillas no es obligatorio.” (Mask not needed) https://aws.amazon.com/es/events/summits/madrid/faqs/
SAP Sapphire, Orlando, FL May 10-12, 2022 “Attendees may choose, but are not required, to wear face masks according to the individual attendee’s comfort level.” https://go4.events.sap.com/sapsapphire/orlando/venue-faq?lang=en
New Relic FutureStack 2022 May 17-19th “Masks are strongly encouraged, but in line with local regulations are not mandatory.” https://www.futurestack.com/event/1f99f933-2470-47eb-aa4e-5f33690ca251/websitePage:9b00e66e-f2b8-4141-8979-c654f9c26051
VMWare Explore – Masks recommended only for the San Francisco event “ Indoor and outdoor masking is recommended.“ https://www.vmware.com/explore.html
JFrog Swampup 2022 Carlsbad CA, May 25-26, 2022 Following jurisdiction: “Masks are no longer required indoors in California, with a few exceptions. But they are still strongly recommended.” https://swampup.jfrog.com/faq/
RSA Conference 2022 (Jun 6-9 2022) – Mask mandate dropped https://www.rsaconference.com/usa/health-and-safety
Cisco Live June 12-14, Las Vegas “Face coverings are not currently required within Las Vegas per local government/health authority requirements. Face coverings are recommended by Cisco to prioritize the health and safety of all attendees.” https://www.ciscolive.com/global/attend/attendee-info/health-safety.html
Apple Stores – masks not required for employees or customers https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-03-03/apple-to-again-drop-mask-mandate-for-employees-as-cases-decline
Microsoft Theater – Mask mandate dropped https://www.microsofttheater.com/venue-info/safe
Airlines drop mandate: Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, United Airlines https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mask-mandate-airlines-drop-requirement-flights/
CDC guidance on events with areas of low case rate (Spain): “Wear a mask based on your personal preference, informed by your personal level of risk.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/gatherings.html
Google “Google restores pre-pandemic perks and lifts mask mandates in Bay Area offices” https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/24/tech/google-covid-bay-area-offices/index.html
Intel “Intel no longer requires that employees wear masks on site, workers may now travel for business and there are no restrictions on events and meetings.” https://www.oregonlive.com/silicon-forest/2022/04/intel-reopens-most-oregon-campuses-as-covid-19-cases-wane.html
Dell Technologies World May 2-5: “Masks optional in alignment with Clark County guidelines as of March 7, 2022” https://events.delltechnologies.com/event/d95ee04d-1878-4981-8271-561addf8655b/websitePage:8e91e2fc-d569-423c-9f5f-dc37789fe4b7