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CEO DATELINE – Report: Business events pose little risk of spreading COVID-19

Aug. 30, 2021
By Walt Williams

A new report commissioned by an events production company has concluded that business events are less likely to increase local COVID-19 infection rates than everyday activities like going to a grocery store.

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Events producer Freeman partnered with computational modeling software company Epistemix to determine how business events like trade shows would affect infection rates in the areas where the events were held, according to an Aug. 24 statement. Epistemix concluded that the risk of infection at events was as much as eight times lower than other activities in the metro areas where they were being held.

“Based on the data we’ve seen, attending an in-person event is no riskier—in fact, less risky than essential daily activities,” Freeman CEO Bob Priest-Heck said. “Businesses and organizations want to get back to events for critical commerce, networking and exchange of ideas.”

The pandemic led to the cancellation of most in-person events in 2020, but the industry is hoping for a comeback in the latter half of 2021. Those hopes have waned a little with the spread of the delta variant causing a surge in new infections in the U.S. A few associations have canceled upcoming in-person events, but most groups are moving forward with their plans.

Other findings in the report:

  • In-person business event participants are more likely to be vaccinated than the U.S. population, reflecting a vaccination rate above 80 percent and creating vaccination coverage that drastically cuts transmission of COVID-19 at those events regardless of the gathering size.
  • Despite some concerns over the delta variant, the majority of attendees and exhibitors want to return to in-person events, and more than 90 percent are not opposed to additional health and safety protocols to enable them to gather safely. Further, those who do not support additional protocols say they instead choose to stay home, mitigating any added risks of potential infections.

“We recognize the current rise in Delta variant cases has led some event organizers and exhibitors to consider cancellations,” Epistemix CEO John Cordier said. “Our modeling and these data can help show organizers and public health officials replace that uncertainty with confidence to plan safe events.”