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Covid Isn’t Done with Meetings

A recent judges’ association conference in New York wound up with a nearly 30-percent rate of Covid infection among attendees. It’s a reminder that event hosts must still consider testing, masking, and other precautions.

From May 9 to 12, about 70 judges attended an annual three-day retreat held by the New York City Criminal Court Judges Association at a Long Island resort. Along with general sessions and small-group discussion sessions, the attendees also participated in social events such as a reception with karaoke, in which many of the judges participated, according to this article in the New York Times.

Unfortunately, the conference at Gurney’s Star Island Resort in Montauk, N.Y., resulted in 20 attendees testing positive for Covid in the days after the event ended, which is an infection rate of about 29 percent.

According to the association’s website, New York City judges are required to be vaccinated in order to appear in courthouses or other work-related spaces such as conference facilities. MeetingsNet contacted both the NYCCCJA and Gurney’s Star Island Resort to ask about whether attendees were tested for Covid upon arriving at the meeting, and whether any hotel employees tested positive for Covid after the venue learned of the attendee cases. Neither responded to MeetingsNet’s request for comment.

This incident reinforces the fact that even with widespread vaccination across the United States—71 percent of people age five or older have received two vaccine doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—new variants of Covid are still highly communicable.

For instance, the seven-day average of cases nationwide from May 16 to 23 was 108,000—and 133,000 new cases were reported on May 23 alone. By comparison, the seven-day average was 37,000 cases from April 16 to 23. And with many people taking at-home Covid tests, it is probable that the true number of cases is higher than reported.

As a result, planners of upcoming meetings and events must be knowledgeable about the Covid-related requirements in their host destinations, which might institute new mask mandates or other restrictions if cases continue to rise. Also, planners should consider the use of enhanced protocols such as pre-event testing of all participants along with masking during the event and/or seating that allows more distance between participants. One other possibility: shifting to an all-virtual meeting.

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