In a typical year, March marks the start of conference season, made all the more attractive by collegial gatherings and travel to warmer climes. But 2020 has already proven anything but typical as the number of novel coronavirus cases continues to increase around the globe. As a potential pandemic looms, these meetings — full of handshakes and crowded lecture halls — are also nirvana for opportunistic viruses. As are the airports, airplanes, and cabs required to get there.
So, as COVID-19 continues to spread, medical and scientific societies must make some difficult decisions. In Europe, at least a few societies have already suspended their upcoming meetings, while France has temporarily banned all gatherings over 5000 people.
In the United States, however, most medical conferences are moving forward as planned — at least for now. But one conference of 10,000 attendees, the American Physics Society annual meeting, which was scheduled for March 2-6 in Denver, was canceled the day before the meeting started. Although it's not a medical conference, it speaks to the "rapidly escalating health concerns" that all conference organizers must grapple with.
Just one smaller medical meeting, the Ataxia Conference, which was scheduled for March 6-7 in Denver, has been canceled.
Most societies hosting these meetings have put out statements to their attendees saying that they're monitoring the situation and will adapt as necessary. The United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, which is holding its annual meeting in Los Angeles this week, sent out an email beforehand asking international travelers to consider staying home. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Global Health Conference, which is slated to have about 50,000 attendees from around the world, has declared itself a "handshake-free" conference but otherwise intends to move ahead as planned.
All of these conferences will be pushing forward without at least one prominent group of attendees. New York University's Langone Health has removed its employees from the decision-making process and instead is taking a proactive stance: The health system just declared a 60-day (minimum) ban preventing employees from attending any meetings or conferences and from all domestic and international work-related travel.
Here's what some of the societies have said to attendees about their intent to proceed or modify their plans:
Conferences in North America
Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), Boston, 3/8/20 - 3/11/20: The group is monitoring the situation and seeking input from local, state, and federal infectious-disease and public-health experts. A final decision is expected by the evening of March 3.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), Philadelphia, 3/13/20 - 3/16/20: Monitoring developments but no plans to cancel or postpone at this time.
American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP), San Antonio, 3/13/20 - 3/16/20: AAFP continues to monitor developments but, as of now, the meeting will continue as planned.
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), Orlando, 3/24/20 - 3/28/20: The academy notes that the meeting is proceeding as planned and will provide hand-sanitizer stations throughout the convention center. The group is also investigating other measures and evaluating risk, together with the county and the Florida Department of Health. Travelers are encouraged to check CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) websites for information and travel advice.
American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), Denver, 3/20/20 - 3/24/20: The AAD's 2020 Annual Meeting is scheduled to take place as planned. The organization will increase the number of hand-sanitizing stations throughout the convention center, and it is adding a nursing station specifically designated for anyone with flu-like symptoms.
American College of Cardiology (ACC), Chicago, 3/28/20 - 3/30/20: The organization is working with attendees, faculty, exhibitors, and other stakeholders in affected countries to ensure access to research and education from the meeting, but is otherwise proceeding as planned.
Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), Toronto, 3/28/20 - 3/30/20: SGO has canceled its international session, originally scheduled for March 27. While the group continues to monitor the situation, the rest of the conference is currently slated to proceed as scheduled. Refunds are available for anyone who can't attend due to travel restrictions imposed by their country or institution.
Endocrine Society (ENDO), San Francisco, 3/28/20 - 3/31/20: ENDO 2020 will take place as scheduled, but the society will continue to monitor and provide updates on its FAQ page.
Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM), San Diego, 4/15/20 - 4/18/20: SHM is closely monitoring global developments and will take action when and where necessary. The group recommends that anyone traveling to and from the conference take care to follow travel restrictions in place at both their origin and destination.
American College of Physicians Internal Medicine (ACP IM), Los Angeles, 4/23/20 - 4/25/20: ACP leadership is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and is actively working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure that safety updates and recommendations are comunicated as the situation evolves.
American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), San Diego, 4/24/20 - 4/29/20: At this time, there is no plan to cancel or postpone any scheduled AACR meetings. The organization is tracking all travel restrictions as well as information and guidance from the CDC and WHO.
American Academy of Neurology (AAN), Toronto, 4/25/20 - 5/1/20: The group is continuing to closely monitor the situation in Toronto and will provide updates as the situation warrants.
Conferences Outside of North America
Congrès de la Société Francophone du Diabète (SFD), Brussels, 3/17/20-3/20/20: As a result of concerns over the spread of COVID-19, the society decided to postpone the SFD congress. The new dates for the next SFD congress in Brussels will be June 2-5, 2020.
Diabetes UK Professional Conference (DUKPC), Glasgow, 3/18/20 - 3/20/20: Currently slated to go on as scheduled. In an emailed statement to Medscape Medical News, the conference organizers note that they're "acting on live guidance from the Government and the [National Health System], but we're also working very closely with the conference venue to ensure we're taking all the appropriate steps in relation to COVID. As we learn more we'll update all attendees as appropriate."
European Association of Urology (EAU), Amsterdam, 3/20/20 - 3/24/20: The WHO and the Dutch Health Authorities do not consider the situation regarding the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) a public health emergency in the Netherlands, but EAU will reevaluate the situation daily. For those who don't feel comfortable traveling or attending the meeting in person, all sessions will be webcasted.
Journées Francophones d'Hépato-gastroentérologie et d'Oncologie Digestive (JFHOD), Paris, 3/26/20 - 3/29/20: While France has limited meetings to fewer than 5000 people in confined space, current JFHOD attendance falls beneath that number and will continue as scheduled for now. The organizing committee is monitoring the situation and will inform attendees should the situation change.
European Psychiatric Association (EPA), Madrid, 3/28/20 - 3/30/20: EPA 2020 is currently scheduled to take place as planned. The organizers state that they are paying very close attention to developments and guidance, and will keep all participants apprised of any changes.
European Heart Rhythm Association Annual Congress (EHRA), Vienna, 3/29/20 - 3/31/20: The European Society of Cardiology says that it is currently maintaining all upcoming congresses and events. Any changes will be announced on the EHRA Congress website.
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Cite this: Which Medical Conferences Are Being Canceled by Coronavirus? - Medscape - Mar 03, 2020.