Annual Meetings 2021 hosted by AAR & SBL

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, some special protocols will be necessary this year. AAR and SBL are consulting with Epistemix, a professional firm that specializes in developing data-driven models for safe events, to develop dynamic plans for these protocols. These are likely to include:

  • All in-person attendees must either be fully vaccinated (i.e., a full regimen of a WHO-approved vaccine) or present a negative test dated no earlier than 16 Nov. In the strongest possible terms, we encourage all members who can be vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. 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 in a secure, private way in future communication.
  • Masks of attendees are required while attending sessions. Presenters may remove masks during their presentation in sessions.
  • 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.
  • Masks are required while traveling through indoor common areas like hallways and lobbies.
  • Masks are required while in the exhibit hall.  
  • In sessions where food and beverage are served, masks may be removed when actively eating and drinking. Masks must otherwise be worn in these sessions.
  • Hand sanitization stations are available throughout the meeting facilities.
  • Employees of the facilities hosting the meeting are required by those facilities to be masked. Many facilities also implement temperature checks at the start of each shift.
  • 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.

In addition to consulting with Epistemix, 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. We recommend bookmarking this link for quick access to the most up-to-date protocols.