The Black Rock City COVID-19 Task Force members are experts in epidemiology, pre-hospital care and transport, hospital care and treatment, and public health. They are from within the Burning Man community and volunteer with the BRC Emergency Services Department (ESD). You can read more about the Task Force here.
Since February 2020, Burning Man Project has been learning, along with the rest of the world, about COVID-19. As the global health crisis grew more serious and we were unable to build Black Rock City in the Nevada desert in August 2020, our medical experts in the Emergency Services Department (ESD) began formally tracking new data and trying to understand how evolving conditions could impact our future.
Last fall, ESD Chief Kate Gonnella, R.N., B.A.F.O., established Burning Man Project’s COVID-19 Task Force to tap into the broad expertise in her department and help manage the flow of information from the scientific world into our operational and organizational planning. You can meet each of our COVID-19 Task Force members and learn about the expertise they bring to the table on our COVID-19 Task Force page.
The mission of the Task Force is to review the latest science, medical knowledge, and policy to make the best and safest recommendations to Burning Man Project about Black Rock City in 2021 and beyond. The Task Force meets regularly, and is in close conversation with the Black Rock City Operations teams, to evaluate the latest updates from scientists and public health authorities, to understand operational implications, and to minimize risk. The Task Force has teamed up with our Technology Department to vet solutions that could help us confirm possible new requirements for 2021, such as vaccination or testing status. It’s a mighty task for sure, and this team is up to the challenge.
Burning Man Project’s Government Affairs Department, led by Director Marnee Benson, is working together with Nevada state and local health officials, event producers, and Governor Sisolak’s COVID-19 Task Force to explore what will be needed to safely and responsibly return large-scale outdoor events to Nevada in 2021. These unique events are an essential part of the vibrant cultural fabric of Nevada.
Collaborators include leaders from the following events:
- Burning Man in Black Rock City
- Electric Daisy Carnival
- Hot August Nights
- National Championship Air Races
- Night in the Country
- Reno River Festival
- Reno Rodeo
- The Great Reno Balloon Race
- The Mint 400
The approach is collaborative and inclusive, a model we believe to be especially important and innovative right now, and one that will continue to be relevant after the pandemic abates.
“The teams involved are relying on science and subject matter experts to guide and inform the process, and we are fortunate to have access to a broad network of experts and professionals throughout and beyond the Burning Man community,” said Gonnella.
Burning Man Project is grateful for the opportunity to work side by side with our outdoor event colleagues in Nevada and to support the State of Nevada. This collaborative work has received bipartisan encouragement and support from elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels.
Burning Man Project is committed to public health and safety, and to sharing important information with the public. We want you to know that we’re listening; we hear and share your concerns about the safety of a 2021 event, and we acknowledge that the determination of whether or not Black Rock City can be built this year depends on more than the work of the COVID-19 Task Force. We are taking a holistic look at the social and ethical considerations of producing our event, alongside the latest science. At this time, we’re by no means certain that we’ll be able to return to the playa in 2021, but we want you to know we’re proactively engaging with experts across many fields to understand the evolving circumstances related to the virus, so we can make informed decisions about whether traveling to Nevada and living in Black Rock City can be done safely.
The wellbeing of our community, our neighboring Nevada communities, participants, staff and volunteers are top of mind as we make any decisions about a potential event in 2021 and beyond. And while there are currently many unknowns, this is certain: we will not proceed with an in-person event if it cannot be done safely.
Header image provided by Kate Gonnella