MLH’s COVID-19 Guidance for the 2023 Hackathon Season

Last Updated 2022-06-03

As an organization that helps power thousands of events worldwide, Major League Hacking (MLH) is providing recommendations based on guidance provided by national and international public health authorities. 

Our team continues to monitor COVID-19, its variants, vaccinations, and other indicators as we advise our communities of hackers and organizers. This post has our most up to date information for the 2023 Hackathon Season (July 2022 through June 2023). 

Guidance can often vary locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. For the safety of our community, we are heavily recommending partnered events adhere to the most strict guidance they receive, but we understand that there are legal restrictions on enforcing guidance in certain regions. 

We are recommending our events choose between a fully in-person or fully digital experience for their hackers after evaluating their local COVID-19 guidance. We are still accepting applications for hybrid events, but we have consistently seen that these are more difficult for organizers to coordinate and less impactful for hackers. 

MLH will only support hackathons and events with physical components if all the following conditions are true:

  1. Events must have a contingency plan in place to transition the event to a fully-digital event in case COVID-19 makes holding an in-person gathering impossible.
  2. Events must have the direct approval of their school, and the implied or direct approval of regional health authorities.
  3. Events must follow the most strict guidance they are able to. i.e. If your school requires masks, but your county does not, you must require masks. 
  4. Events must publicly post their minimum COVID precautions on their website before opening registration and maintain these commitments at the event

This post contains guidance for: Hackers, Organizers, and Sponsors; plus additional resources.


We have at least one digital hackathon each weekend that is open to all hackers all over the world. This means you may have more opportunities to hack than in any year previous. All of our member events may be viewed at For each event, you’ll see a badge indicating if the event is Digital, Hybrid, or Physical.

  • Physical Events – These events take place fully in-person. MLH staff attend these hackathons in person.
  • Digital Events – These events are planned and take place fully online. MLH staff attend these events digitally.
  • Hybrid – These events have both digital and physical components. Hybrid events typically end up being a better experience for in-person attendees because they can more easily access and take advantage of the offered benefits (mentors, food/snacks, etc). We recommend hackers choose a fully digital or in-person hackathon over a hybrid event when possible.

If you are attending an event with in-person components, the attendance requirements should be clearly listed on the hackathon’s website in their FAQ. Requirements typically include all, some, or none of the following;

  • Vaccination
  • Masking
  • Social distancing
  • Attendee restrictions (number of attendees, location, and other restrictions)

We’re working with all of our local event organizers to ensure they have robust plans for any in-person components, and have backup plans to convert to a digital style if necessary in the weeks leading up to their event. As we’ve learned throughout this pandemic, you should be prepared to shift your plans as things change.


This season MLH is recommending that our Member Event hackathons choose between being a fully digital or fully physical hackathon. We are still accepting applications for hybrid events, but we have seen over the past year that hybrid events are worse for both organizers and hackers. Organizers struggle to coordinate two events simultaneously (a well run digital hackathon is more than just a Discord!). Digital hackers end up feeling left out at hybrid events, and have a less impactful experience. 

For physical events, you must  have a robust COVID-19 plan. Specifically, you need to have a digital contingency plan in case your event cannot be safely run in-person, direct approval from your school, implied or direct approval from your regional health authorities, and follow the strictest guidance of those authorities. 

While we believe in flexibility and working with our organizers to overcome issues, our team is rigidly committed to only supporting events when and where it is safe to do so. If it is not safe to host a physical hackathon, we’d still happily partner with your team on an incredible digital experience for your hackers. 

Events must provide the following information as part of their applications:

  • Direct approval from their School, College, or University
  • Implied or direct approval from their regional health authority
  • Policies and plans for each of the following topics in accordance with their school and regional health authorities
    • Vaccination
    • Masking
    • Social distancing
    • Attendee restrictions (number of attendees, location, and other restrictions)
    • Food
    • Sanitation
  • For each of the policies and plans above, you must list clear information for hackers in your website’s FAQ
    • You must also comply with any COVID policy listed on your website at registration opening. Failure to do so, will result in MLH no longer being able to partner with your event and we will notify hackers that we have rescinded your event’s membership. 
  • A digital contingency plan in place in case approval is rescinded by the school or regional health authorities
    • As a component of your event’s membership, you must be prepared to act on the digital contingency plan if MLH’s or any other authorities’ policies change
    • If you choose to disregard authorities’ policies (by continuing to host a physical component to your event), MLH will no longer be able to partner with your event and will notify hackers that we have rescinded your event’s membership. 

Where possible, we strongly recommend requiring vaccination or proof of a negative test for all your attendees. 

Finally, MLH is actively and regularly checking in with any approved events with in-person components. You may be required to resubmit any and all of the required in-person information as the event draws near.

We have resources available to help you host the best digital or physical event in our Organizer Guide.


For further information about our restrictions and requirements to host an in-person event, please review the Organizer section above. 

We’ve seen great success in the digital format, including when it comes to sponsor success metrics. We’ve seen project submission rates remain similar to those of in-person hackathons. Regardless of the event’s format, we are actively working with event organizers to ensure they are able to run a successful event with successful sponsor activations.

We’re working hard to provide hackathons with tooling and suggestions to make sponsorship useful for you. Your participation makes it possible for every hacker to experience hacking and the hacker community.

Additional Resources

While we’ve done our best to collect resources that might be helpful for you, we encourage you to do your own research as you will be better equipped to find information in your area.

IANPHI has a list of most National Public Health Institutes (NPHIs).


The WHO has a resource center for COVID-19

Worldwide and in most regions we serve, governments are recommending staying current on COVID-19 vaccinations and masking/social distancing as needed.

United States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the NPHI for the United States. They have an extensive resource center on the COVID-19 novel coronavirus with constantly evolving information.

The CDC has provided guidance for large events organizers and also provides guidance for school and university administrations. Even though it is technically archived, we also recommend reviewing their guidance on gatherings.

They recommend contact directories for state and local health officials.


The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has a resource for COVID-19 and has provided contact details.

PHAC also provides a resource for assessing risk at mass gatherings.

United Kingdom

Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care have a resource for COVID-19 and a growing list of guidance, including guidance for educational settings.


The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has a resource for COVID-19.


The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has detailed information and resources for COVID-19.