In a typical year, March marks the start of conference season, made all the more attractive by collegial gatherings and travel to warmer climes. But 2020 has already proven anything but typical as the number of novel coronavirus cases continues to increase around the globe. As a potential pandemic looms, these meetings – full of handshakes and crowded lecture halls – are also nirvana for opportunistic viruses. As are the airports, airplanes, and cabs required to get there.
So, as COVID-19 continues to spread, medical and scientific societies must make some difficult decisions. In Europe, at least a few societies have already suspended their upcoming meetings, while France has temporarily banned all gatherings over 5000 people.
In the United States, however, most medical conferences are moving forward as planned – at least for now. But one conference of 10,000 attendees, the American Physical Society annual meeting, which was scheduled for March 2-6 in Denver, was canceled the day before the meeting started. Although it’s not a medical conference, it speaks to the “rapidly escalating health concerns” that all conference organizers must grapple with.
APS Physics Meetings
Due to rapidly escalating health concerns relating to the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the 2020 APS March Meeting in Denver, CO, has been canceled. Please do not travel to Denver to attend the March Meeting. More information will follow shortly. #apsmarch
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Just one smaller medical meeting, the Ataxia Conference, which was scheduled for March 6-7 in Denver, has been canceled.
Most societies hosting these meetings have put out statements to their attendees saying that they’re monitoring the situation and will adapt as necessary. The United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, which is holding its annual meeting in Los Angeles this week, sent out an email beforehand asking international travelers to consider staying home. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Global Health Conference, which is slated to have about 50,000 attendees from around the world, has declared itself a “handshake-free” conference but otherwise intends to move ahead as planned.
All of these conferences will be pushing forward without at least one prominent group of attendees. New York University’s Langone Health has removed its employees from the decision-making process and instead is taking a proactive stance: The health system just declared a 60-day (minimum) ban preventing employees from attending any meetings or conferences and from all domestic and international work-related travel.
Here’s what some of the societies have said to attendees about their intent to proceed or modify their plans:
- Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), Boston, 3/8/20 – 3/11/20: Monitoring the situation and seeking input from local, state, and federal infectious-disease and public-health experts. Final decision expected by the evening of March 3.
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), Philadelphia, 3/13/20 – 3/16/20: Monitoring developments but no plans to cancel or postpone at this time.
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), Orlando, 3/24/20 – 3/28/20: Proceeding as planned.
- American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), Denver, 3/20/20 – 3/24/20: The AAD’s 2020 Annual Meeting is scheduled to take place as planned. The organization will increase the number of hand-sanitizing stations throughout the convention center, and it is adding a nursing station specifically designated for anyone with flu-like symptoms.
- American College of Cardiology (ACC), Chicago, 3/28/20 – 3/30/20: The organization is working with attendees, faculty, exhibitors, and other stakeholders in affected countries to ensure access to research and education from the meeting, but is otherwise proceeding as planned.
- Endocrine Society (ENDO), San Francisco, 3/28/20 – 3/31/20: ENDO 2020 will take place as scheduled, but this is an evolving situation worldwide. The society will continue to monitor and provide updates on its FAQ page.
- American College of Physicians Internal Medicine (ACP IM), Los Angeles, 4/23/20 – 4/25/20: ACP leadership is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and is actively working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure authoritative communication of safety updates and recommendations as the situation evolves.
- American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), San Diego, 4/24/20 – 4/29/20: At this time, there is no plan to cancel or postpone any scheduled AACR meetings. The organization is tracking all travel restrictions as well as information and guidance from the CDC and World Health Organization.
- American Academy of Neurology (AAN), Toronto, 4/25/20 – 5/1/20: The group is continuing to closely monitor the situation in Toronto and will provide updates as the situation warrants.
This article originally appeared on Medscape.com.