Updated October 14, 2021
The recent surge in COVID-19 cases brought about by the increasing predominance of the Delta variant in the United States and around the globe has increased the uncertainty surrounding how the pandemic will affect a 2021 Annual Meeting.
While the increasing COVID numbers over the past weeks are of deep concern, evidence also suggests that vaccines remain highly effective. In recent weeks, transmission numbers in Bexar County, Texas have begun to fall, and most models predict that they will continue to do so in the coming weeks.
When coupled with additional preventative measures like masking and the increased air movement and filtration systems already implemented by the various properties that will host the meeting, we believe that a safe, in-person Annual Meeting in November is still possible.
In order to do this, AAR and SBL have developed special protocols based on data-driven models for safe events:
- All in-person attendees must either be fully vaccinated (i.e., a full regimen of a WHO-approved vaccine) or provide proof of a negative test dated no earlier than November 16th. Following current CDC guidance, a booster is not required in order to be considered fully vaccinated. Registrants will be given information about how they can verify their vaccination or test result in a secure, private way through the ShareMyHealth system.
- Masks are required while attending sessions. Presenters may remove masks during their presentation in sessions.
- Masks are required in all indoor common areas like hallways and lobbies.
- Masks are required while in the exhibit hall.
- No food or beverages may be consumed during sessions, except in sessions where food or beverages are provided as part of the program.
- In sessions where food and beverage are served as part of the program, masks may be removed when actively eating and drinking. Masks must otherwise be worn in these sessions.
- Employees of the facilities hosting the meeting are required by those facilities to be masked.
- AAR and SBL contractors will be required to wear masks.
- Meeting rooms are set with reduced capacity in order to increase space between seats. When attending a programming session (sessions that have A, S, or P IDs), attendees must sit in an available seat. If all seats are taken, the session is full. Standing/sitting around the walls and in the aisles is not permitted during sessions. The front row of seats will be reserved for session presenters and those with accessibility needs so that additional space is available compared to a traditional head table.
- Hand sanitization stations are available throughout the meeting facilities.
- Meeting facilities are being cleaned and sanitized nightly. The Henry B. González Convention Center is a GBAC STAR facility.
- The facilities have invested heavily in HVAC systems that filter the air and mix in substantial amounts of fresh air as the air is cycled through the system.
We continue to work closely with facility management as well as civic and public health authorities in San Antonio to monitor guidance, as the meeting gets closer. The above protocols are subject to change in light of updated guidance.