Meeting Professionals International yesterday informed attendees to its World Education Conference via email that two vaccinated participants have tested positive for Covid-19 following the event two weeks ago in Las Vegas. The annual WEC, held June 15-17 at the newly opened Caesars Forum, drew 1,229 in-person attendees and another 568 who joined select sessions virtually.
Neither individual was symptomatic until five days after attending WEC, according to Drew Holmgreen, vice president of brand engagement for MPI. “Both experienced very minor symptoms post-event and were advised by their own medical professionals that, due to their being fully vaccinated, family and those around them have very little chance of contracting the virus,” he said, adding, “One point to reinforce is that neither individual was symptomatic while attending WEC and didn’t demonstrate any signs until five days after having left WEC.”
The messaging to WEC participants was based on the details relayed by the two individuals. Contact tracing for the event was a matter of individual personal accountability; MPI promoted the Nevada Covid Trace app both in the show's "Know Before You Go" communications and its event app, which provided attendees the ability to self-trace.
A Doctor's Opinion
Dr. Richard Arriviello, chief medical officer for InHouse Physicians, disagrees with the suggestion that these individuals did not need to quarantine. “During the peak of Covid, about 40 percent of the people infected had no symptoms,” which made the virus particularly hard to contain, he noted. “Now you add in a vaccine, and if you do get the virus, you're most likely not going to have symptoms, and if you do have symptoms, they are going to be very mild. Logistically, personally and professionally, I think the chances of you spreading it under those circumstances are just as high or higher, because you have no clue you have it."
If there’s a small silver lining, he said, it’s that the chances of you contracting the virus from someone who was vaccinated likely are lower than if they weren't vaccinated. However, anyone who is infected should be quarantining because there is still a chance of spreading it.
The Message to Participants
MPI, a client of InHouse Physicians, sent an email out at 5 pm EDT on June 29, which reads in part:
MPI considers safety and security its top priority, especially as it relates to participants at our events, which is why we created a Duty of Care plan for pre, during and post in-person activations. As part of our post-event plan, we wanted to advise you that MPI was recently made aware of two fully vaccinated attendees of WEC Vegas who tested positive for Covid-19. Due to their being fully vaccinated, family and those around them have very little chance of contracting the virus. Further, these individuals were advised they do not need to quarantine.
We will continue to monitor our attendee health through the 14-day window, which expires on July 1, 2021. Should you test positive prior to July 1st, please let us know by contacting [email protected].
While the notice states that vaccinated individuals have little chance of spreading the virus and that it was deemed unnecessary for them to quarantine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, "Fully vaccinated people should not visit private or public settings if they have tested positive for Covid-19 in the prior 10 days or are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms."
According to the CDC: “Although the risk that fully vaccinated people could become infected with Covid-19 is low, any fully vaccinated person who experiences symptoms consistent with Covid-19 should isolate themselves from others, be clinically evaluated for Covid-19, and tested for SARS-CoV-2 if indicated. The symptomatic fully vaccinated person should inform their health-care provider of their vaccination status at the time of presentation to care.”
The World Health Organization was even more cautious with their updated guidance last week, urging fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks, maintain social distance and practice safety measures.
Complicating matters is that without vaccine certification or Covid-19 passports, event organizers are relying on attendees self-reporting their vaccine status before, during and after an event. Trust without verification can lead to unanticipated outcomes.
New Concerns Emerging
This incident is likely to be one of many as the delta variant spreads worldwide. Within the past week, L.A. County has urged all residents to wear masks indoors, and many countries have delayed reopening plans. Meanwhile, with sporting events and other large events resuming in the U.S. and around the world — often with no visible safety measures — new cases are bound to result. Event organizers should be prepared for such outcomes.
“WEC might have slipped right into the crack, if you will, of enabling 1,200 people to come together when we all thought we were on the tail end of this," said Gregg Talley, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of Talley Management Group Inc. "And now, with the delta variant and some mixed messages we're getting from the CDC, I think you're going to see a bit of a clamp back down with folks saying, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, let's put the brakes on some of these meetings.'”
Talley will discuss the plight of association meetings in the July 14 webinar, “What's New in Association Meetings? Everything,” now open for free registration.