MLH’s Response to COVID-19

Last Reviewed: March 26, 2020; Last Updated: March 26, 2020

The novel coronavirus, nCOV-19/COVID-19, and its spread is a developing situation. 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.

As MLH events come in all shapes and sizes and take place all over the world, each event will be different. As the spread of COVID-19 continues and precautions develop further, we’ll do our best to keep this resource updated for everyone.

Today, many local, regional, and national public health authorities are recommending the cancelation of large events. MLH now asks all MLH affiliated events, through the end of June 2020, to migrate to a digital format. We’re making this change now to give organizers, sponsors, and hackers the opportunity to plan for new digital formats.

As everyone takes action to socially distance themselves it becomes more important that we have ways to gather while slowing the spread of COVID-19.

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

Other Resources:
We’ve created the following additional resources for attendees and organizers to reference:


We are currently having all MLH affiliated events become digital events through the end of June 2020. This means you may have more opportunities to hack through the end of the school year.

We’re working with every event to make sure their transition to a digital format still allows you to get everything you expect from MLH events: quality, learning, socializing, and fun.

While we are currently recommending all events move to a digital format, some events may opt to cancel or postpone. Check with your event for specific details.

If you were planning on traveling for an event, check with your travel provider, most airlines are waiving change fees and many other travel companies (busses, trains, etc) are offering similar waivers or refunds.


MLH is only working with digital events through the end of June 2020.

While not every locality has made the decision, yet, to limit events, we believe it is highly likely that this decision will be made for most areas in the coming weeks and months. By converting your event to a digital event now, you’ll have more time to plan and communicate with attendees, sponsors, and vendors.

As social distancing becomes a greater part of everyday life, your events will serve as an opportunity for your community to come together, even in this uncertain time.

We have a variety of resources available to help make the transition easy and help your event maintain a community focus: MLH Hackathons, MLH Localhost, and MLH Local Hack Day.

If going digital is not an option consider postponing your event until the outbreak has passed (this will likely mean next school year at the earliest). Postponing will make sure your hard work does not go to waste and may allow many of your hackers and sponsors to participate in the future.

We only recommend canceling if it is the only option, due to circumstance. We firmly believe that the hacker community will continue to want to find community even if they are unable to in person.

In any case, you should make sure to immediately update everyone involved with your event, including, but not limited to, your team, MLH, sponsors, partners, attendees, school administration, volunteers, judges, mentors, and vendors.

Working with Sponsors

We’re hearing many sponsors are canceling their participation in hackathons due to COVID-19. Before having a sponsor pull out entirely, you may be able to speak with them about doing virtual activations. Please reach out to your Hackathon Community Manager to learn more.

Explain to your sponsors that you’re a student run event and you rely on their contributions to make the event occur. In this uncertain time, many sponsors may be understanding and willing to continue their sponsorship, even if they cannot participate digitally.

Always refer to your sponsorship agreements for what recourse you and your sponsors have when it comes to backing out and refunds.


MLH events are now converting their events to a digital format through the end of June 2020.

If going digital is not possible, we’re recommending organizers postpone events. In the case that is not possible, we recommend organizers cancel the event and provide the maximum possible refund to sponsors.

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

Most hackathons run on thin budgets and your sponsorship is what makes them possible. Instead of asking for a refund, we ask that you work with the local organizers to have them execute your sponsorship instead.

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

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. They have also put out recommendations for planning mass gatherings both as interim guidance for COVID-19 and general mass gathering guidance.

Worldwide and in most regions we serve governments are recommending social/physical distancing including maintaining 3-6 ft (~1-2m) of separation between people and limits to gatherings.

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.

They recommend contact directories for state and local health officials.

The United States is recommending avoiding gatherings of 10+ people and many states have issued shelter-in-place orders, preventing gatherings of any kind.


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

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

PHAC is currently recommending a cessation of mass gatherings of greater than 50 people and the Canadian government is recommending limiting participation in non-essential 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 United Kingdom is recommending avoiding gatherings small and large.


The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has a resource for COVID-19 and a list of national authorities on the issue.


The National Centre for Disease Control has a growing list of COVID-19 resources. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has a resource with contact details and has a disease alert index.

India has issued a total ban on leaving home, as such gatherings are not possible.