The American Meteorological Society (AMS) is planning to host its annual meeting in Houston, Texas next month; however, with COVID impacting other high-profile, in-person events, concerns are growing whether or not the meeting should be held.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the AMS wrote, “Throughout the planning for our fully hybrid 102nd Annual Meeting in January, AMS has been closely monitoring news and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the World Health Organization, and local health agencies to ensure the health and safety of those who join us in-person in Houston. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, its subsequent spread, and potential effects on the in-person component of the Annual Meeting is proving to be a cause for concern despite the safeguards, outlined in our Commitment to Care statement, that we intend to carry out.”
The AMS says they continue to evaluate the evolving COVID-19 situation and its potential impact on the in-person component of the meeting. They added that they will provide an update on the status of the meeting during the week ending January 7, 2022 ahead of the conference that is scheduled for January 23-27.
Another high-profile conference that many attend in addition to the AMS event is dealing with a COVID outbreak now. The AGU Fall Meeting 2021 for the American Geophysical Union was held in New Orleans, Louisiana December 13-17. According to an update released by the AGU today, 78 fully vaccinated conference attendees have tested positive for COVID-19, with 16 new cases just added today. The AGU required every individual to be fully vaccinated if they were in the New Orleans Convention Center (NOCC). This included AGU staff, NOCC staff, and security; they also required masks in the NOCC since they rented the entire facility.
In a statement posted to its website, the AGU wrote, “Please contact AGU Meetings Vice President Lauren Parr, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you attended #AGU21 in-person and tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of the meeting.” The AGU has plans to keep the community posted on the growing COVID outbreak on its website until December 31, which will be the 14th day after the meeting.
One of the largest conferences in the country in January is also seeing large numbers of people and companies cancel attendance. The 2022 Consumer Electronics Show, or CES 2022 for short, is due to run in Las Vegas, Nevada from January 5-8. Some of the biggest names in technology have cancelled their plans to be at the event, including T-Mobile which was due to have its CEO present a keynote speech during the event.
“After careful consideration and discussion, T-Mobile has made the difficult decision to significantly limit our in-person participation at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show,” the company said in its statement, also posted on Twitter. “While we are confident that CES organizers are taking exhaustive measures to protect in-person attendees and we had many preventative practices in place as well, we are prioritizing the safety of our team and other attendees with this decision.”
T-Mobile joined Amazon, Meta (Facebook), Pinterest, Twitter, and iHeartRadio in canceling their plans to be a part of this event.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) which runs CES 2022 says they don’t have plans to cancel their event at this time. “CES will be in person on January 5-8 in Las Vegas with strong safety measures in place, and our digital access is also available for people that don’t wish to, or can’t travel to Las Vegas,” the CTA wrote in a statement . “Our mission remains to convene the industry and give those who cannot attend in person the ability to experience the magic of CES digitally.”
— the Weatherboy (@theWeatherboy) January 11, 2012
CES is also attended by meteorologists and companies showcasing weather-related technologies. In 2019, IBM used CES to unveil their new weather forecast model. Weather stations, weather radios, and household electronics that perform due to the weather or the forecasts of the weather are often showcased at the electronics show.
All of these events have COVID-19 safety protocols for their attendees. The AGU required that all attendees be vaccinated and wear masks at all times, with the exception being speakers at podiums that had the option to take their masks off. Despite everyone being vaccinated and masked, the COVID continues to grow. CES 2022 requires that all guests be vaccinated and wear masks; earlier this week, they also announced attendees must have negative COVID test results within 24 hours of attending a CES event. CES 2022 is providing some COVID test kits to event attendees. For AMS 2022, all attendees are required to be vaccinated. However, Texas law bans local jurisdictions from imposing masking requirements. In recent weeks, courts have overruled state law with regards to schools in Harris County, home to Houston, but the anti-masking law remains in place beyond schools.
While a decision hasn’t been made to cancel CES2022 or AMS2022, one major science conference has decided to cancel: the 239th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society decided to cancel their in-person event scheduled for January yesterday. A statement released by the AAS yesterday said, “The AAS Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to cancel the in-person component of the 239th AAS meeting. The rapid rise of the COVID-19 Omicron variant and the health risks it poses to our staff, attendees, exhibitors, and support contractors coupled with the likely spread of the virus by attendees to others after the conference was deemed to be too significant a risk to hold the meeting. In addition, international and institutional travel restrictions have already impacted some of our speakers and attendees, limiting their ability to travel to Salt Lake City at all. We have also received and weighed community feedback regarding canceling the in-person meeting, with the majority favoring a cancellation. Most people who submitted feedback also thanked the Board for listening and many recognized the challenging decision they have to make and expressed their support for the Board of Trustees.” The in-person event was slated for January 9-13.