Division Title

​​Common Area Guidance

Meeting Spaces and Conference Rooms

NIH In-Person Meetings

Requirements and recommendations for meetings and events are dependent on the workplace community level at the location where the meeting or event will be held, as well as the number of in-person attendees. Higher community levels and greater in-person attendance increases risk, therefore additional controls and approvals. Details on requirements are listed below. 


Meeting/event planners or hosts should complete the “NIH COVID-19 In-Person Meeting/Event Safety Plan” for events with 50 or more persons, prior to informing participants that the event will be in-person or entering into contractual agreements for the space (if non-government space). This process must be followed whether the event is held in NIH/HHS facilities or non-government facilities. Instruction for this form can be found here.


For information on how to use the form and when it is required to be submitted, please review the chart below. Contact the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS) at Submit form to DOHS Director,  or your Safety Specialist if you have any questions. All locations and sites should follow recommendations for community levels. There are no differences in recommendations if you are in a healthcare location.

Community Risk Levels

< 10 participants

11-49 participants

50+ in-person participants


Use recommended by event organizer

Use recommended by event organizer

Submit form to the DOHS Director, with Subject Line IN-PERSON EVENT REQUEST 50+ - {NIH IC} – {Meeting Name}

Approval Authority



Notification required, but no approval required.


Use recommended by event organizer

Use recommended by event organizer, safety measures to be communicated to participants. DOHS consult available and recommended.

Submit form to the DOHS Director,  with Subject Line IN-PERSON EVENT REQUEST 50+ - {NIH IC} – {Meeting Name} 

Approval Authority



DOHS approval required. 


In person events are not recommended.

Follow NIH safety guidance for masking and density, including any additional ICO specific requirements. 

Use required by event organizer, safety measures to be communicated to participants. DOHS consult available and recommended.

Submit form to the DOHS Director, with Subject Line IN-PERSON EVENT REQUEST 50+ - {NIH IC} – {Meeting Name}  

Approval Authority


Executive Officer or Designee

DOHS approval


*If the location moves into the high-risk level, only mission critical in-person events will be approved. Lab meetings, and other scientific events usually meet the definition of mission critical. The event planner should have a contingency to move to a virtual-only setting if community levels change to high-risk levels.

NOTE: Any student-led, in-person meeting must receive approval from OITE. Students should email OITE@nih.gov to request permission to lead an in-person meeting.

Reminder: This approval process for 50+ in-person events is separate from the Efficient Spending Policy (ESP). If your event is subject to the ESP, then you should obtain the needed approval(s) at the appropriate ESP threshold levels.

At All Community Levels

It is highly recommended that you have a hybrid attendance plan in place that will allow virtual attendance of the meeting should community levels unexpectedly spike or attendees are symptomatic or required to isolate. 


If you have visitors attending your meeting, they should be expected to meet the same standards as any NIH staff attending the meetings, including guidance on masking and density. Visitors should be notified of any meeting requirements that are established in the planning of the meeting.

For small meeting locations with poor ventilation or ventilation that cannot be adjusted to maximize fresh air, consider use of portable HEPA-filtered air purifiers. Consult with DOHS and the facility personnel to determine of portable HEPA-filtered air purifiers are appropriate.


Requirements for NIH In-Person Meetings

All NIH sponsored meetings, whether held in an NIH building, a leased building, or an off-site facility, including outdoor meetings, must abide by the following safety measures as determined by community levels. Outdoor meetings are lower risk, but not without risk, and are encouraged, especially for larger gatherings. 


  • Control in-person attendance. Know how many people will attend in person. This will allow you to select a proper room size for the attendance.
  • Virtual option offered: Remote participation options should be offered, and attendees should not be required to attend in-person unless necessary.
  • Assess the space you are meeting in. Check the size of your room. The square footage is very important, but not the only factor. Rooms with high ceilings are better than those with low or standard height ceilings. More importantly, make certain your room has good ventilation. If the room you are proposing does not have a supply air vent, it may not be adequate. If possible, place furniture in a way that reduces the chance of personnel sitting within 6 feet of one another.
  • Cleaning and Hand Hygiene: High touch surfaces and common areas should be cleaned at the beginning and end of each day. Disinfectant must be available for shared areas, and common items disinfected between uses. EPA approved disinfectants effective against coronavirus should be used. Hand sanitizer stations/bottles should be available, and their use encouraged throughout the event.
  • Keep meetings small. Only necessary attendees should be at meetings in-person.
  • Keep meetings brief. Limit the time spent gathering to the shortest time needed to accomplish the meeting objectives.  Start and end the meeting on time. If the meeting business is concluded early, end the meeting and minimize socializing.
  • Symptom Screening and Positive Case Reporting: Attendees should perform daily self-assessments for COVID-19 symptoms and be informed how to report them and/or a positive test result in the meeting announcement or invite. Persons with symptoms, no matter how mild, must not attend in-person gatherings, no matter the size or community risk level. Symptoms should be reported, and attendee tested in accordance with CDC guidelinesOnly positive cases affecting NIH staff working in healthcare facilities and Tier 1 should be reported to OMS.
  • Contact Tracing: The NIH conducts contact tracing for all COVID-19 exposures that happen at work. If you test positive within five days after the event, or official government travel, contact OMS for guidance on notifying meeting participants.
  • Food service: Shared food and beverage services are not recommended. Individually packaged items are preferred. NOTE: All prohibitions on use of appropriated funds for provision of food remain unchanged.

Medium: Low level requirements plus --

  • Physical Distancing: It is recommended seats be spaced to ensure 6-foot distancing between attendees. Consider adjusting spaces at tables during meals to provide ample distancing. Floor markers or signage directing flow of traffic can be used to assist in directional flow, as well as reminders for distancing at gathering spaces, i.e. Registration desks, break areas/time, and in any vendor site.
  • Masks: Although not required, it is recommended that a well-fitted face covering be worn as outlined in the current version of the NIH COVID-19 Safety Plan.

High: Medium level requirements plus --

  • Masks: A well-fitted face covering must be worn as outlined in the current version of the NIH COVID-19 Safety Plan.
  • Physical Distancing: At high community levels all meetings must require attendees maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance.
  • Density: Density limits match that of the local case rates as outlined in the NIH Safety Guidance/ COVID-19 Plan. Density limits can change and need to be reassessed the week of the meeting to ensure adjustments are made in compliance with our safety plan.
  • Food Service: When in high, food may still be served, as mentioned in the Low section, and a controlled setting may be advisable to all attendees freely going to the community.