Convention Cancellations Accelerate as Public Health Restrictions Announced

With the effects of the coronavirus outbreak expanding, and authorities all over the world responding with policies that attempt to limit large gatherings, many more sff events have cancelled or postponed. Some are shielded from contractual penalties because the actions were initiated by the government, but not all.

The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts has relented and cancelled ICFA 41, which was to be held March 18-21.

For the last two weeks, the IAFA Board has been monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation. Until yesterday, we considered it our responsibility to keep the ICFA going for the more than 400 members who were still planning to attend, and to let each individual decide for themselves the risk.

The situation has changed drastically and quickly. The WHO has ruled this an official pandemic and, well, you’ve all seen the news. We believe it would be irresponsible for us to hold the conference because travel poses a public health threat, so ICFA is cancelled. We now must enter into negotiations with the hotel to try to minimize the financial damage. At this time, our policy to credit registration forward (as opposed to refunds) has not changed, but we will give you an update when the situation becomes clearer.

Costume-Con 38 in Montreal, scheduled to start tomorrow, has been cancelled.

It is with great sadness that we are constraint to follow the Prime Minister directives to cancel any event bigger than 250 persons. It is a case of force majeure. We will keep you updated on the situation.

Zenkaikon, slated to begin March 20 in Lancaster, PA now will not take place. The decision was made in response to the state governor’s appeal: “Gov. Tom Wolf advises canceling mass gatherings in Pennsylvania, avoiding recreational activities due to coronavirus concerns” .

We know many of our prospective attendees will be disappointed by this decision. We are disappointed too. Our volunteer staff has spent thousands of hours to make this event happen, and to make it safe for our attendees. But given the current reports coming out about this virus, we agree that it is no longer safe to hold the event. We would hate to put our members, staff, exhibitors, panelists, guests, and the greater Lancaster community at risk.

Fantastika 2020, the Swecon this year, has been postponed until sometimes in the fall. Here is the Google Translate rendering of their Swedish-language announcement:

We have had a very hard time deciding whether to implement Fantastika or set it up for the coronavirus pandemic. Now the issue has been resolved by the Diesel Workshop [the convention facility] seeing us as such an event that they do not allow it. One advantage of this is that we do not have to pay for the premises and in addition, the Diesel workshop tries to find a suitable weekend with us in the committee where we can move Fantastika2020….

Planet Comicon Kansas City is postponed ‘til later this year:

Planet Comicon Kansas City is following the Emergency Order issued by the City and will be postponing PCKC 2020, scheduled for next weekend (March 20-22). The safety, security and health of our attendees, guests, exhibitors, staff and crew members will always be of the utmost importance to us. We will be shifting our efforts to our new event dates which will be in late summer or early fall of 2020 and will be announced in the coming days. For more information, click here.

Already cancelled were the Spectrum Awards Ceremony and Flesk/Spectrum appearance planned in conjunction with the KC convention.

The 2020 Jack Williamson Lectureship at Eastern New Mexico University has been postponed.

I regret to inform you that, due to the COVID-19  virus outbreak in the country and – more recently — in New Mexico, Eastern New Mexico University will be canceling large campus events.  Unfortunately, that means postponing the 2020 Williamson Lectureship (scheduled for April 2-3, 2020) until fall 2020.

We are reaching out to our guests and guest writers to see if we can arrange a date in September.

TOOL TO HELP STAY CURRENT. The US/Canada Convention Status Sheet is an unofficial attempt to track the many dozens of events planned for the next few months.

IN CALIFORNIA. Last night, the Governor of California publicly advised against holding large gatherings (See the LA Times story, “Large gatherings should be canceled due to coronavirus outbreak, California Gov. Gavin Newsom says”.) This announcement affects conferences, concerts, sporting events, and more — but currently does not apply to schools.

… Gov. Gavin Newsom joined state health officials in recommending the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people across the entire state, escalating the effort by his administration to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus….

The advisory, which does not carry the force of law, stops short of asking Californians to change their work, travel or even some leisure habits. A document provided by the governor’s administration said the limit on large gatherings does “not apply to essential public transportation, airport travel, or shopping at a store or mall.”

Wondercon, not due to take place until April 10-12, has been postponed. Comic Con International, which runs the Anaheim, CA event, proactively decided to postpone the con even though the host city nudged them on Twitter:

It’s also been decided that Disneyland in California will close through the end of the month.

As for San Diego Comic-Con itself, scheduled for July 23-26, the SDCC Unofficial Blog says it’s still moving forward:

…So what does this mean for San Diego Comic-Con 2020? Comic-Con International stated that they “continue to work closely with officials in San Diego and at this time no decision has been made regarding the rescheduling of Comic-Con slated to take place this summer; July 23-26, 2020.” That convention is more than four months out, and with the exception of E3, most events being canceled have been in March-April. Most event organizers are likely waiting to see how containment and other measures in the US work, as well as if warmer weather could potentially help combat the spread of COVID-19, before making decisions on conventions further out. But the situation continues to change at a rapid pace, so keep an eye on this space.

The annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards ceremony, planned for April 3 in Hollywood, CA has been cancelled.

We have been closely monitoring the situation around the COVID-19 virus in California and throughout the world and carefully considered our options for the 36th L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future workshops and awards celebration.
In the best interest of the winners, judges, and guests, the workshops and gala event set to take place in Hollywood, CA, on April 3rd will be postponed until later this year.
We know how important this event is for aspiring writers and illustrators and their families who come in from all over the world.

THIS WEEKEND. Yesterday’s File 770 post about conventions affected by the coronavirus outbreak noted that PopCult HQ was tracking eight events happening this weekend. Whereas yesterday six were still planned, by today all but one has been cancelled or postponed.

That one is the River Region Comic Con in Montgomery, Alabama.  

STATEMENT CONCERNING CORONAVIRUS: We have been monitoring the situation and there has been no advisement from Alabama Public Health to not have the event. At this time no cases have been reported in Alabama. If the CDC or Montgomery Public advises and does not allow us to use the building due to concerns we would then cancel. RIVER REGION COMIC CON HAS NOT BEEN CANCELLED. for more information: CLICK HERE!

TADE THOMPSON. One of the GoHs of the UK Eastercon, Tade Thompson, has withdrawn. The convention currently is still planned to start April 10 in Birmingham, UK.

CHARLES STROSS BATTENS DOWN THE HATCHES. In Scotland, Charles Stross is “self-isolating”: “Public appearances in a time of pandemic”.

This probably doesn’t need saying, but I’m cancelling/avoiding public gatherings and/or public appearances for the indefinite, but hopefully short-term, future.

As of an hour ago the Scottish government announced that we’re moving from “contain” to “delay” wrt. Covid-19—community transmission unrelated to travel or contact has been confirmed—and banning all assemblies of >500 people from Monday.

I’m personally in the high-risk category, being over 50 and with both type II diabetes and hypertension, so I’m self-isolating as of today….

TAKE CARE. Diana Glyer’s comment on Facebook seems a good note to end with:

My favorite book about contagions is Connie Willis’s brilliant Doomsday Book, There are a hundred things to love about that book, but for me, today, the big takeaway in it is this: We are limited in the things we can do to address the catastrophe itself, but there are no limits to the ways we can serve, love, help, guide, encourage, and care for one another in the midst of it. And that will make all the difference.

18 thoughts on “Convention Cancellations Accelerate as Public Health Restrictions Announced

  1. Based on my local advice, I’m trying to keep gatherings I’d like to organize under 25 people. That will work for boardgaming, but archery tournaments are clearly out for the next couple of weeks at least.

  2. I say my Nurse Practitioner whose my PCP for our weekly meeting on my head trauma (blood pressure still isn’t cooperating so one med got taken away for now as my BP keeps dropping way too low and that med may be the cause). She said expected this virus to be bad for at three months and recurring as soon as weather started cooling in the autumn.

    I’m monitored so closely by her and her medical care team that they’ll catch the virus if I get it before it develops into anything very far along given that the longest I go between being observed by her is seven days. Often less if I’ve got specialists involved as I so often do.

  3. Lowell, in terms of infections. She expects it to be a very serious problem right through early summer with a repeat in autumn with a lot of vulnerable populations getting very sick. Think the 1918 flu epidemic.

  4. The ConZealand Committee sent a mass email, stating that they don’t intend to cancel, but if the government says otherwise…..

    And the SCA has cancelled Gulf Wars. There’s a Facebook group for the merchants, who are looking at heavy losses.

  5. Disney World also closing due to COVID-19

    My insurance emailed to remind subscribers that we all have access to telemedicine as an alternative to going to a doctor’s office, and it’s the same copay as an office visit.

    My church has sent out an announcement that the “pet service” I normally attend, because it’s the one that’s small enough that I can handle it almost every time, is canceled for this month at least. Meanwhile, the other services will adopt practices routinely used in the pet service, including people remaining seated and waving at each other during the Peace. We were doing it to avoid tangled leashes and excess excitement among the dogs and the occasional cat. So it’s now a tried and tested means of “social distancing”…

    The stores are crazy at times they’re normally fairly empty. I think everyone is attempting to avoid the busy times.

  6. @Lis: If you don’t mind me asking, what denomination is your church? I know some Catholic churches have a special ceremony for blessing pets on St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day, but I haven’t heard of regular pet services.

  7. @Nina–

    @Lis: If you don’t mind me asking, what denomination is your church? I know some Catholic churches have a special ceremony for blessing pets on St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day, but I haven’t heard of regular pet services.

    Episcopalian. But this is our parish doing its own thing, to the slightly bemused support of the diocese. It was started by our previous pastor, and a small group of the church ladies. It’s not the only regular pet service at an Episcopalian church, but as far as we know it was the first, and it got international coverage when it first started. We get email from amazingly diverse places even now.

  8. Corflu Heatwave in College Station, Texas, is still happening. The annual gathering of science fiction fanzine fans has begun – with pre-convention events such as the Fan Meet-Up Wednesday, and tonight’s group dinner at BJ’s Brewhouse Restaurant (16 hungry and thirsty fans enjoyed a delicious meal and drinks) – so it’s happening. Unfortunately, this afternoon Texas A&M University’s administration effectively sealed off the campus to large groups coming onto campus, so the pre-arranged tours of the Cushing Library’s SF & Fanzine Collection, the third largest such collection in the country, were cancelled. That was one of the major attractions for the weekend. sigh However, guests are arriving safely and taking it all in stride. The tour of the Messina Hof Winery is still on for Friday afternoon, though, so that’s a plus. Corflu 50 guests Tommy Ferguson and Howard Waldrop are here and having a grand time, too, so we’re good.

    Everybody here so far is doing well, and sends their wishes to our compatriots around the world. Take care of yourselves!

  9. This virus multiplies fast. Expect large, expanding outbreaks in the U.S. in a week or so, especially in California, New York and Washington. (Also, expect more reports because the rapidly expanding testing will reveal more existing outbreaks). Everyone should be avoiding any unnecessary gatherings for now. If you’re young, you’re at less risk yourself, but consider that if you get sick and help spread the disease, you may be signing the death warrant of those who are at higher risk. Most people will recover, but if hospitals get swamped, there will be significant unnecessary deaths.

    I wouldn’t bet on any large gatherings a month from now, in the U.S. or otherwise. Maybe later in the year will be better, but it could be iffy for some time.

    Myself, I am retired, I am not panicking, but I am limiting my grocery store drives to about once every two weeks and buying a fair amount each visit and otherwise limiting contact for the moment. If I do get sick, I would rather it happens after the peak hits, so there will be an ICU bed and ventilator available, if needed.

  10. This 73-year-old-with-diabetes fan is stocked up and am hunkering down in my Brooklyn apartment. Now have the most food stuffs that I’ve had in a long time. Fortunately, the internet and cable TV means I’m still connected to the wider fan and mundane worlds.

  11. New Zealand travel restrictions update:
    https://stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/120279430/coronavirus-prime-minister-updates-nz-on-covid19-outbreak

    From midnight Sunday, everyone arriving in New Zealand will have to isolate themselves for 14 days, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced.

    The tighter border controls were announced during an update by the prime minister on New Zealand’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak on Saturday afternoon. She said while it is not realistic for New Zealand to only have a handful of coronavirus cases, the changes would slow the spread of infection.

    Travel restrictions would be reviewed in 16 days, the prime minister said

  12. Leprecon has had a GoH pull out, and is negotiating with the hotel (since Arizona hasn’t turtled yet and their contract still holds).

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