Burning Man Project Statement on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Since our initial statement about the coronavirus (COVID-19), the situation has been evolving daily. We have been watching, reading and listening as new information and details emerge. Like all of you, we have been striving to understand what this outbreak means for our communities and our families. We are also thinking deeply about the impact on our global network, our nonprofit, and our plans for Black Rock City 2020. We are taking this situation very seriously and taking proactive steps to ensure our staff and community are as safe as possible. Here are some related updates:

  • Burners Without Borders (BWB) published a spring newsletter, which includes some great resources related to community resilience, and launched a localized effort to collect and donated much needed supplies including masks, gloves, and goggles (we have some of those, don’t we?!). Find out how you can help here. Over the next few weeks, BWB will be providing specialized tool-kits, workshops and resources. As an example, check out this piece, The Long Disaster.
  • We canceled our annual Burnal Equinox event, which was scheduled for March 14 in San Francisco and postponed our European Leadership Summit, which was set to take place in Tallinn, Estonia, April 1–5.
  • We have converted our annual Theme Camp Symposium to an entirely virtual format. The gathering will take place on March 28; we welcome participation from across the community and around the globe. More information about programming and how to tune in can be found here.
  • Several official Burning Man Regional Events have been canceled or postponed. This includes but is not limited to AfrikaBurn in South Africa, Bequinox in Southern California, Blazing Swan in Australia, and Crème Brûlée in France.
  • Events at Fly Ranch, including nature walks, group gatherings, and LAGI 2020 site tours in March and April have been canceled. The LAGI design challenge is moving forward, and we encourage you to learn more about that exciting project here.
  • We have closed our offices in San Francisco, Reno, and Gerlach, but our organization remains fully operational. Our teams, which are already distributed to some degree, are now working fully remotely.

Of course, one of the biggest questions is whether we’ll be able to build and experience Black Rock City 2020. In the current climate of uncertainty it is simply too soon to tell. There are some indications that the virus may peak in the next couple of months and then begin to subside, while others believe the pandemic could have a much longer timeline. Some large-scale events are being rescheduled from spring until fall. Black Rock City is still five months away, and a lot can happen between now and then. So much is beyond our powers to predict or control.

We believe the responsible course is to proceed with caution and not make a premature decision one way or the other. For now, we are going to continue to thoughtfully and mindfully prepare for Black Rock City 2020. We have reached out to our government partners and have been working with state agencies in Nevada. We recently announced our Black Rock City 2020 Honoraria recipients and released our callout for designs for civic plazas near the Man Base. We will continue to consider the facts and make thoughtful, informed decisions about next steps.

Many of you have purchased or are considering purchasing tickets to the 2020 event and are wondering what will happen if we have to cancel. We are exploring every possible option for offering refunds if the coronavirus pandemic ultimately requires cancellation of the 2020 event. Our terms and conditions state that tickets are non-refundable “for any reason,” but we recognize the extremely unusual circumstance we’re all in. Issuing refunds would be challenging for our nonprofit organization, which supports year-round staff and programming, but we are aware of and sensitive to the difficult financial position so many members of our global community are in right now. Like you, we’re feeling our way in the dark here. We are examining all possible scenarios that would enable all of us to weather this storm while continuing to build our home in Black Rock City together, at a later date if not in 2020.

This is a challenging, uncertain time, but we are rising to the occasion by tapping into the best of what we love about Burning Man. Burners are resilient, creative, and infinitely resourceful. And we’re in this together. Already, we’ve seen people embodying the 10 Principles by coming together virtually, gifting to those in need, sharing precious resources, and devising new ways to create and celebrate as we collectively hunker down. We have faith in the capacity of the global Burning Man community to thrive and provide essential support to those who need it most.

This is a stark and, yet in some ways, touching reminder that Burning Man is not just a week in the desert. Burning Man is a year-round, global community made up of the most innovative thinkers, doers, dreamers, and makers. This new challenge requires us to work together to solve formidable problems. Burners are good at that.

We can also all play a role in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. Now is the time to champion our community’s Principles, especially Civic Responsibility and Communal Effort. Please do your part by taking every possible precaution. Wash your hands (again!). Read the U.S. CDC’s guidelines and the World Health Organization’s page for info on how to take care of yourself and others. Depending on where in the world you live, your government may be leading the way proactively. For others, maybe not. Either way, you can step up and set a positive example. This is a collective action that requires individual participation from all of us. Thank you for doing your part.

We will share additional updates as new information becomes available. Please also read this related post from Burning Man Project CEO Marian Goodell.

About the author: Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.