Convention and conference season vs. COVID-19

Greetings, all —

I read a blog over on author Chuck Wendig’s site titled “Running a Con, Conference, or Festival in the Age of a Burgeoning Pandemic!” Chuck says:

We have relatively few cases here in the USA, and outside China, it remains so far slower than maybe some have expected. And presently, it would seem as if the overall illness is mild for most, excepting those over 60 or the immunocompromised.

But, let’s also be clear, those over 60, and the immunocompromised, aren’t nothing. They’re a sizable population and are (gasp) people, just the same. Further, novel coronavirus (which is not, sadly, a coronavirus that reads novels) is a fast-moving unknown. We don’t know everything about it yet. It presently seems to have a mortality rate of 2%, which is low, though considerably higher than you get with an average flu year, which is ~0.2% — but, again, those numbers could change. Ideally, it goes down, because as we understand it more and get ahead of it, it cuts fatalities. But it could also go up. (Let’s recall that the 1918 Spanish flu started out mild.) And two percent is still pretty scary! If even 20% of the global population catches it, as they did with swine flu in 2009, that’s 1.5 billion people. If two percent of them die, that’s 30 million people.

Chuck’s point with this blog is to tell organizers who are putting on conventions, conferences, and festivals to have a plan and to keep people apprised. If the event has to be cancelled, can people get refunds? Or if people decide to drop out because they want to ensure the safety of themselves and/or elderly and/or immunocompromised people in their lives, can they do so without penalty, e.g.? And what best practices with regard to health will be at the event if the event goes on as scheduled?

I know, I know. You’re seeing articles about coronavirus everywhere, and about the CDC that seems to have botched the initial roll-out of test kits here in the US; you’ve probably seen mention of the cases of COVID-19 that are popping up around the US and the deaths in the US and around the world.

And I know there are those among you who probably think, “no big deal, it’s like getting the flu or a cold.”

And for some people, that’s certainly true. But not for all. Think about those among us who are immunocompromised and/or older. Or very, very young. These are people who cannot afford to get even a mild form of a virus because it’s dangerous. You could be a vector for those people, and we still don’t know much about COVID-19.

And yeah, I know some of you are going to start cueing up the “but we don’t freak out when flu season hits.”

Well, we should maybe take flu season a bit more seriously, too, because thousands die each year of it.

At any rate, COVID-19 is working its way around the world and it is now here in the US and has probably been here for a while. And because I have people in my life who are immunocompromised and I have older folks in my life, I’m being extra-careful about travel right now. That is, I’m not doing any because I don’t want to bring anything back — COVID-19 or other — to people who may be in serious danger from that or other viruses.

Chuck finishes with:

Don’t just tell us, “We have no cases,” because that isn’t super-relevant right now. It might be more relevant if that’s true the day of the event — but unless your event is today, we are being warned to expect clusters to pop up all over. Will it? I dunno. I’m not Nostradamus. But this is a contagion, and contagion gonna contage. Which isn’t a word, I know, shut up. Also, you having no cases is not relevant to us traveling through airports, which do not abide by the laws of containment. More to the point, don’t make us feel like assholes for being anxious about it, or concerned, or curious.

And surely there’s more you can do — linking to the CDC/WHO, offering up good tips on hygiene and hand-washing, and the like. And I’m certainly missing some things, too. Just, again, don’t make us bug you about it. You bug us. Stay in contact. True too if you’re a workplace or a school. Don’t assume we don’t care or aren’t concerned. Be proactive.

So if you’re organizing a convention/conference/festival, please keep future attendees in the loop about what’s going on with regard to the event’s approach to dealing with COVID-19.

Speaking of, here’s the CDC’s info page on COVID-19: CDC INFO.

And here’s a World Health Organization link with information: WHO

If you’ve got travel coming up to events like conferences, conventions, or festivals, maybe check and see if those venues are keeping people informed about what they’re planning to do and posting relevant medical information.

Stay informed, and stay safe.

One comment

  1. I had shared Mr. Wendig’s post to my page a few days ago. He sums it up well. I am waiting for a statement from GCLS. Doesn’t have to be much, but some kind of acknowledgement that this virus is a situation to be considered for con planning would be appropriate.


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