by H. K. Wilson
As warmer temperatures beckon us outdoors and restrictions are lifting, American cities are returning to their pre-lockdown bustle. And tradeshows are happening once again! The chance to mix and mingle with our fellows is a curative in and of itself. In 1869, Mark Twain published The Innocents Abroad, an account of his travels through Europe and the Holy Land with a group of American travelers in 1867. He concluded: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” After a year of isolation and reflection, may we reemerge into the world and embrace new opportunities for travel and connectedness!
Arizona Reopens for Business
There is ample reason for event planners to celebrate in the Grand Canyon State. On March 25, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (pictured left) lifted all remaining COVID-19 restrictions via executive order. Ducey had already lifted occupancy limits in early March, and the new order lifted all remaining COVID-19 restrictions on businesses.
Per the order, municipalities and counties are no longer allowed to issue directives that conflict with Ducey’s current executive order, including new mask mandates. The order states: “Any city, town or county that has a rule, regulation or ordinance not in place as of March 11, 2020 that is in conflict with the provisions of this order shall not be enforced.”
The announcement came only one day after the state opened COVID-19 vaccinations to all people aged 16 and older. It is estimated that 3 million doses have already been administered, and close to 30 percent of people in Arizona have been vaccinated. Approximately 1.2 million, or 20 percent of Arizona adults, are fully vaccinated.
Case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths have been declining in recent weeks, but public health officials still advise caution against dropping prevention measures too quickly.
Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland Reopens for Wedding Season
After being shuttered since March 2020, the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland (pictured above) is reopening for its first show April 10 and 11. The Today’s Bride Cleveland Wedding Show is Ohio’s largest wedding show and the third largest in the nation, and will feature more than 100 vendors from Northeast Ohio.
Today’s Bride has had to cancel four consumer shows in the past year. And since many brides-to-be have opted to delay wedding planning altogether until restrictions are lifted, an enthusiastic turnout to the event is expected.
The utmost care is being taken by HCCC and event planners to ensure the safety of guests who are returning to the Center. Currently, HCCC is working toward becoming a HCCC. The GBAC (Global BioRisk Advisory Council) certification program is performance-based and designed to help each facility establish a comprehensive benchmark for cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces. HCCC has also implemented thee ASM Global Venue Shield Program, a new environmental hygiene protocol utilizing hygienic safeguards that serve ASM Global’s clients, guests and staff.
The Today’s Bride Cleveland Wedding Show will limit the venue to 25 percent percent capacity at all times and will implement sanitizing stations, increased disinfection and cleaning of public areas, and other safety protocols.
It is estimated that HCCC lost $4.7 million in the past year due to the lockdowns. During its closure, the facility has earned limited revenue by holding socially distanced trials for the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Meanwhile, HCCC’s convention calendar is filling up, and the Center is looking forward to hosting the Cleveland Auto Show December 4-12.
Three Things to Consider About Vaccine Passports
Are vaccine passports the next hurdle for getting convention-goers to their destinations? Obtaining vaccinations before traveling to foreign destinations is nothing new. For instance, if you want to go to Brazil, you have to get vaccinated against yellow fever, or they won’t let you into the country. While travel vaccinations are not without precedent, many people are railing against any policy requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before traveling domestically or abroad.
- Forged Documents
According to an October 2020 study published by the World Health Organization, forgery of currently required vaccine cards is rampant. For instance, in Zimbabwe it is estimated that 80 percent of “yellow cards” are counterfeit. Even now, there are reports of phony vaccination cards being traded like baseball cards in some areas of the U.S.
- Vaccine Efficacy
There is also the question of vaccine efficacy. A recent WHO report states: “There are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission. In addition, considering that there is limited availability of vaccines, preferential vaccination of travelers could result in inadequate supplies of vaccines for priority populations considered at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease.” And with new COVID variants being introduced around the world, there is no certainty that current vaccines will be effective.
- Social Disparity
One other consideration is the relationship between vaccines and social privilege. According to data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 70 percent of more than 52 million who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus in the U.S. are white and non-Hispanic. So not only are Black and Latino Americans hardest hit by the pandemic, they are also being vaccinated in lower numbers. Further, research published by the University of Pittsburgh reveals that Black Americans generally have to travel further than white Americans to get vaccinated.
Christine Whelan (pictured right), a clinical professor in the School of Human Ecology at UW-Madison and chief happiness officer at Dear Pandemic, a science-communication project, concludes that while the vaccine supply is still limited, using vaccine passports for travel and other social events (such as concerts, shows and clubs) would create “double privilege” for people who got vaccinated early on.
One last consideration: No one thinks about getting a vaccine for the 1918 Spanish Flu before they fly. Odds are, this virus will run its course too. Once implemented, such policies can be difficult to rescind. Relying on good science will result in the best public policy.