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Michael Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy, being escorted through the mostly maskless crowd at the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami.

Business Events’ Best Bet: Err on the Side of Caution

Last week’s 12,000-attendee Bitcoin conference has many attendees claiming that they contracted Covid in or around the event. While that cannot be proven, enforcing masking and social distancing might keep event hosts clear of such drama.

With Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress set to kick off on the morning of Tuesday, June 15, many eyes will be on how smoothly the event goes in terms of attendee health and safety. That’s in large part due to the stories emerging from the Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami over three days in early June, including ones reported in this Bloomberg article related to several high-profile attendees claiming on Twitter that they or their colleagues contracted Covid during that event.

The Bitcoin event had no vaccine-verification protocols nor Covid-testing requirements and did not enforce masking. The Bloomberg article said masking “was rare” among attendees. Although part of the event was outside, some large indoor spaces were used and many unofficial events took place in smaller indoor venues, and some attendees said that handshakes and hugs were common practice.

“Vaccines have been freely available for months in the U.S., to the extent that anyone who wanted to be vaccinated could do so by the time of the event,” event organizer BTC Media said in a statement after the event. “We provided all attendees with the current recommendations of the CDC and State of Florida, and expressed to our audience that those who were high risk or hadn’t been vaccinated should consider waiting until next year.”

The Miami mayor’s office released a statement about the Bitcoin attendee stories that was reported by CNBC: “We have no reason to believe the conference was a ‘Super Spreader.’ At this point, with the information we know, this characterization of the event is not only unfair but also irresponsible.”

But with airport passenger screenings now above 2 million a day for the first time since the pandemic began and business events such as MPI’s WEC starting to take place, two relevant facts—only 43 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, and the Delta variant of Covid represents 10 percent of all U.S. cases and is rising—might suggest to event planners that they should enforce more Covid-safety measures than fewer.

MPIwec2021covidsafety.pngWhile MPI (its November hosted-buyer event set-up is in photo at right) is not asking WEC attendees for vaccination status or Covid-test results, part of MPI’s duty-of-care statement sent to attendees says the following: 

MPI continues to place top priority on safety for all those on site at WEC Vegas. As such, the event will include daily self-health affirmations and temperature checks for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, and physicians will be available on site. 

MPI conducted a recent attendee survey concerning the comfort level of MPI evolving its WEC Duty of Care. Based on CDC and Clark County guidelines and the results of this survey, wearing a mask indoors is not required, but those on site who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised are expected to wear a mask. In addition, those individuals who feel more comfortable wearing a mask are encouraged to do so. 

In order to make attendees feel more comfortable, physical distancing of three feet when indoors will be accommodated throughout events and venues, where possible, including the use of plastic partitions, where appropriate. 

Attendees will also be provided the ability to choose and display ribbons indicating their level of personal comfort on site. 

MeetingsNet’s Rob Carey will be on site at MPI to report on educational sessions, gauge the sentiments of in-person attendees, and take photos. Look for his on-scene reports on on Friday, June 18 and Monday, June 21.

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