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Winter Shows Are Managing the “Triple Threat” by Tightening Safety Protocols

FRANCES FERRANTE, SENIOR EDITOR
pile of surgical masks

CHICAGO—With most of the country under the grip of harsh winter weather, a new challenge has emerged for trade show organizers. A potential “tripledemic” of a seasonal COVID wave, combined with influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), has health officials and the general public on alert once again. 

“Crowds of maskless people are gathering and we’re being reminded that coronavirus isn’t the only disease that spreads between people in close contact with one another,” Amanda Schleede, CEO of Attend Safe, said. “While they’re available, flu shots aren’t getting into as many arms as some would hope.” 

This season is more challenging on the COVID front too, she said. “What’s different between now and the last two winters is that instead of one dominant COVID-19 virus strain looming over us, there are several variants of concern. Additionally, Americans aren’t getting the new, Omicron-targeted vaccine that has proven more effective, especially at preventing death, as fast as experts hoped—and in nowhere near the numbers to reach the ‘herd immunity’ officials have dreamed about since 2020.” 

Public health officials in cities where the COVID transmission level has increased to medium or high, including Los Angeles and New York, are urging people to practice indoor mask wearing, and show organizers are tasked with re-evaluating their safety protocols in light of the emerging conditions. Some shows, including the giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan. 5-8, are now encouraging attendees on their websites to get their annual flu shots.

Related. Trade Show Organizers Are Turning to Predictive Analytics to Keep Attendees Safe

Organizers of Space Tech Expo, to be held in Long Beach, Calif. May 2-4, are not reinstating any mask guidelines but are requiring exhibitors to submit the control measures they will be putting in place to limit transmission in their booths. 

Becky Fox, MSN, RN-BC, Founder of Vital Circle, said that although her company can offer flu and RSV testing on site, the vast majority of requests from show organizers are for COVID testing. She advises organizations to have contingency plans as the numbers creep back up. 

“You want to be able to adjust event experiences and decrease the potential of exposure and/or spreading of an illness—such as with moving meetings to a larger room with better ventilation or moving an indoor event to an outdoor setting,” Fox said. 

Others are continuing with the stringent vaccination and masking protocols that many thought would have been gone by now. One example is the annual meeting of the American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research (AADOCR), being held March 15-18 in Portland, Oreg. Not only is proof of vaccination required for all attendees prior to picking up their registration badges, but all attendees, presenters and vendors working the meeting are required to wear masks while indoors.  

“Our staff working at the meeting will be fully vaccinated, however, we are not legally able to require local convention center or hotel staff to be vaccinated,” Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, HMCC, Director of Meetings, AADOCR and the International Association for Dental Research, said. “We are working with local entities in Portland to develop on-site protocols in accordance with CDC guidelines, including requiring all local convention center staff to wear masks.” 

Reach Amanda Schleede at amanda@attendsafe.com; Becky Fox at becky.fox@vitalcircle.health; Leslie Zeck at lzeck@iadr.org 

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