COVID, duty of care, and the meeting industry

COVID duty of care

Event professionals: it’s time to talk about COVID, duty of care, and the meeting industry. Actually, we should all have been talking about this for the last couple of years, but better late than never.

We’ve known since mid-2019 that COVID-19 spreads by airborne aerosol transmission. (Which makes me wonder why the GBAC STAR™ Facility Accreditation, with its emphasis on disinfection and cleaning surfaces and neglect of adequate ventilation, is still a thing.)

As I write this, the BA.5 Omicron variant is fueling the latest surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) just announced that COVID cases have tripled across Europe and hospitalizations have doubled. And “as Omicron rages on, scientists have no idea what comes next“.

The reality is we are still suffering a pandemic, currently dominated by the most contagious variant of COVID-19 yet: BA.5. The worst variant to date, BA.5 is four times more resistant to messenger RNA vaccines than earlier strains of omicron and is leading to significant increases in hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

As a result, WHO’s Emergency Committee has announced that Covid-19 remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — its highest level of alert.

Meanwhile, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reports that “Nearly one in five American adults who have had COVID-19 still have Long COVID“. And a U.S. Veterans Affairs study suggests that a second infection doubles the risk for death, blood clots, and lung damage, and increases the risk of hospitalization by three times, with every COVID reinfection increasing the risk for bad outcomes.

Yet the meeting industry seems to be abrogating its traditional responsibilities to keep attendees and staff safe.

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