Submitted 5 March 2020 by Anne Grauer
The Executive Committee of the AAPA is closely monitoring reported COVID-19 outbreaks, epidemiological and pathophysiological projections, CDC guidelines, and US government travel restrictions. Our goal is to ensure that decisions, which might impact our upcoming 2020 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, California, are timely and made with the safety and well-being of our members, registrants, attendees, and the AAPA in mind. This is a difficult time for us all, as we weigh our options and seek to make informed decisions.
At this juncture, our intent is to host the meeting as planned and will cancel only under government-mandated restrictions. Subsequent updates to the information below will be posted as quickly as possible.
Below are some of the initiatives we are taking to ensure that the meeting remains a welcoming and safe environment, and that we meet the needs of those attending and those unable to attend.*
Travel to the Meeting
Predicting potential travel restrictions is impossible and serves as a source of stress for us all. We will be monitoring national, state, and local policies in an effort to stay informed of decisions that impact travel into the US and Los Angeles. Below are resources to assist you as you make your travel plans and decisions.
U.S. Department of State
If you have already purchased plane tickets (as many of us have), or intend to purchase them shortly, review the cancellation or exchange policies. Airlines are beginning to respond to traveler concerns. United Airlines, for instance, has just announced that they will waive fees for itinerary changes for tickets purchased between March 3-31, 2020. We hope that all airlines follow suit and extend their policies.
In instances where travel is not formally restricted, we believe that attending the AAPA meeting is a personal decision. It is a decision that we respect. Hence, regardless of the reason for your choice to not attend the meeting, we will provide options for registration reimbursement. These are still being developed. We will need your patience with this process as we explore alternative means of participation in the meeting and/or sharing research after the meeting dates.
Plans for Alternative Sessions and Virtual Meetings
Our virtual and well-connected world provides us with many prospects for developing alternative sessions and virtual meetings. However, having the technology is vastly different from having access to resources (money and human expertise) required to make them work efficiently. For instance, streaming sessions might be an option for us, but is dependent on adequate bandwidth at the hotel, finances to pay for them, and individuals to build the infrastructure. Similarly, creating cloud space for presentations requires the development of a system to organize files and make them available. In spite of the complexities and limitations, we are exploring options to facilitate the communication of our work—especially with those who are unable to physically attend the meeting.
We welcome your ideas, feedback, and offers of assistance and expertise!
Maintaining a Safe Meeting Environment
Maintaining a safe environment will be a priority throughout the AAPA meeting. Towards that end, we intend to work closely with the conference hotel and our meeting organizers, Burk and Associates, to take precautions to provide a safe and healthy environment for attendees. For instance, we will be developing a COVID-19 action plan, hoping to have first aid personnel available who can assess and assist those who may demonstrate flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms, and will make hand sanitizers available in meeting venues.
Along with these measures, we encourage attendees to work with us by maintaining a ‘touch-free’ conference, adopting a no-handshake policy, and by washing your hands frequently and using hand sanitizer.
Above all, we ask that if you are sick, do not travel. If you become ill, contact your physician and avoid public areas. Follow the CDC’s updates and guidance to fight against infectious diseases. Even if you’re perfectly healthy, keep in mind the CDC’s general healthy travel habits.
Keeping up-to-date on the spread, effects, and measures taken in response to COVID-19 is essential for us all. Below are a few sites that we are monitoring closely and that might assist you as you make your professional and personal decisions.
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
• World Health Organization (WHO)
• U.S. Department of State
One of the great strengths of the AAPA is our willingness to share ideas and support one another. While measures to contain COVID-19 will impact our meeting, I am certain that we will find other means to connect, and that our commitment to support one another professionally and personally will not be thwarted by a virus.
Anne L. Grauer
*Suggestions and guidelines offered here have been, in part, modeled after and borrowed with permission from the American Association for Anatomy Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology.
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