DisCon III Team Announces Covid-19 Policy for December Convention

The 2021 Worldcon committee has notified members that under DisCon III’s COVID Policy they will require proof of completed vaccination, and that masks must be worn at the con. They also have posted a FAQ with more information.

The committee distributed the following release to members and the press:


Worldcon is more than just a convention: it is a community. As such, we all have a duty to protect each other and to protect our friends, families, and peers.This has been true from the very first Worldcon in 1939, and it remains true today.

At DisCon III, we aim to continue this tradition of providing a welcoming, supportive, and safe environment for all members of the science fiction and fantasy community. We have a responsibility to provide and maintain a safe convention experience for everyone from members and volunteers to staff and hotel employees and even to the community at large. We can’t protect from every danger, but we can do our best to protect from infectious conditions that are lessened by effective vaccination programs. 

Our COVID-19 policy is intended to comply with all applicable laws. It is based upon guidance provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and created in consultation with epidemiologists who are familiar with conventions and fandom.  We will continue to follow developments, revise the policy as necessary, and communicate any updates or changes with members. Find our COVID-19 FAQ here.

“The health and safety of the Worldcon community is our first concern. We all are yearning to reconnect with each other, to be able to see each other, and gather together because of our passion for the world of science fiction. We need to do it in a way that protects all of us,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, DisCon III Chair. “The Covid-19 policy was created with input from our community and health experts.”

“I was relieved to hear about this policy, since while it would be nice for my kids to be able to attend, it’s far more important to me that I don’t bring anything home with me to my unvaccinated kids,” said Malka Older, one of the M.C.s for the Hugo Award Ceremony.

The following is the current official DisCon III Policy related to preventing the spread of COVID-19: 

1. Mandatory: Proof of Completed Vaccination

To attend any aspect of DisCon III in person, members and guests of DisCon III must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 1st with a course of vaccination approved for human use as a COVID vaccine in the country in which the vaccine was received, including authorization for emergency use. Each such person must present proof of vaccination, and attendees over the age of 18 must show a photo identification matching the name shown on the proof of vaccination. There are no exceptions.

2. Mandatory: Masks must be worn.

COVID-19 vaccines are an important tool to help stop the pandemic, but they don’t mean we can stop taking all precautionary measures. Properly worn masks covering nose and mouth are required for all convention members and guests in all convention spaces, except when actively eating or drinking. Failure to comply is a Code of Conduct violation and may be subject to disciplinary action. Clear masks will be provided to facilitate accessibility to panelists, event participants, and certain staff and volunteers in key positions. 

3. Recommended: DC Covid-19 Tracker App 

To help make people aware if a COVID-19 exposure is discovered at the convention, members and guests are encouraged to download and install the DC Covid Tracker app.

4. Refund Policy

Members who cannot or choose not to get vaccinated may request that their current attending membership be converted to a supporting or virtual membership, consistent with the convention’s existing refund policies.

As of this writing, children under 12 are not currently eligible for vaccination. We recognize that children aged 5-11 may become eligible for vaccination prior to the convention, and so we are allowing a full refund for children under 12. Further, we are extending the refund cut-off to December 1 for those children and their families to allow them time to delay their decision in hope that expanded eligibility will permit them to attend. However, due to all of the uncertainties, we are making the difficult decision that DisCon III will not offer on-site childcare. 

We understand some individuals may still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. We recommend visiting the CDC’s page Myths and Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines for more information.

Please visit our FAQ if you have any questions about this policy (or contact us at COVID@discon3.org if you have questions not answered by the FAQ).

The DisCon III community wishes that this policy was not necessary, but the safety of our members and volunteers, and the safety of our hotel staff, is our responsibility.  Thank you for understanding why we have felt compelled to make these difficult decisions, and thank you for joining with us to do your part to keep our community and those around us safe.


140 thoughts on “DisCon III Team Announces Covid-19 Policy for December Convention

  1. Jeffrey Jones: I don’t know. I haven’t read Murderbot, but it sounds too violent for me.

    It’s a lot less violent, and a lot more “<rolleyes>, here I am saving these idiot humans from their idiocy yet again, and all I wanted was to be left alone to watch my TV shows”.

    The first novella is only $3.99 on Kindle. Send me your e-mail address at jjfile770 at the googlemail place, and I’ll even buy it for you, if you want.

  2. Cat Eldridge:

    “You do realise that we haven’t actually done boosters yet so we couldn’t have done the studies you wanted done?”

    US is not the only country in the world though. Israel started to give booster shots to those above 60 a month ago (of course their racist apartheid policy made sure the Palestinians, that they are obliged to vaccinate according to the Geneva-convention, mostly still hadn’t gotten their first shots). If I remember correctly, they could see some effect in immunity levels.

  3. By now I expect that any decision that Discon III announces will get complaints.

  4. Is this still in effect?

    Mayor’s Order 2021-066

    V. SPECIAL RULES RELATING TO BUSINESSES AND VACCINES

    1. Businesses and other institutions are authorized to request to see someone’s vaccine card or other adequate proof of vaccination, consistent with any applicable federal or local law.

    2. If a business or other institution should require vaccination for admittance, registration, or employment, it must provide exceptions: (a) for those who are medically unable to be vaccinated and (b) for those whose sincerely held religious beliefs forbid them from being vaccinated. For persons with a medical or a religious exemption, a business or other institution should admit such persons on the other terms afforded to persons who have been fully vaccinated.

    Charges of violations of this Order may be referred to the Office of the Attorney General for possible prosecution in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, in the name of the District of Columbia, and persons found to be in violation of this Order or other rules promulgated pursuant to the Order are subject to fines of up to one thousand dollars ($ 1 ,000) per violation.

  5. @JJ: I thought it was okay – it was readable enough – but the charms that have endeared it to so many people were clearly lost on me.

  6. As Earl Kemp said in 1952, “No matter what you do, someone’s gonna bitch.”

    I wish people would stop bitching here.

    See you, some of you, in DC—my third DC Worldcon over 58 years (!).

  7. @JJ: Thanks, I will consider your very kind offer–although I haven’t felt like reading much lately.

  8. Jeffrey Jones: I will consider your very kind offer – although I haven’t felt like reading much lately.

    I don’t do a lot of re-reading these days – I’m far too conscious of all the books on my TBR that I haven’t yet read, and a growing awareness that I have less time remaining to read them all – but the Murderbot stories and Leckie’s Ancillary stories have become comfort re-reading for me. I suspect that it’s because they both feature main characters who repeatedly emphasize that they aren’t human, while continually demonstrating that they have far more humanity and kindness than most of the human beings around them.

  9. Brian Z:

    “it must provide exceptions: (a) for those who are medically unable to be vaccinated and (b) for those whose sincerely held religious beliefs forbid them from being vaccinated.”

    What lunatic nonsense is this!?

  10. Hampus Eckerman: What lunatic nonsense is this!?

    It’s the usual American lunatic nonsense.

    However, I don’t think that Worldcon qualifies as a business – it’s an unincorporated literary society – and just as private events in the U.S. are allowed to specify no concealed-carry or open-carry weapons even in states where public concealed-carry or open-carry are legal, a private event is able to make whatever security requirements they choose to make for their events.

  11. Hampus Eckerman says US is not the only country in the world though. Israel started to give booster shots to those above 60 a month ago (of course their racist apartheid policy made sure the Palestinians, that they are obliged to vaccinate according to the Geneva-convention, mostly still hadn’t gotten their first shots). If I remember correctly, they could see some effect in immunity levels.

    That’s still too soon for the Israel boosters to have taken effect. The original shot schedule had a month for the first one to have full effect before getting the second one, so the booster wouldn’t be effective for at least a month also. So studying the effects of it will take at least a month and reasonably much longer. I don’t expect we’ll see the first peer reviewed articles about the boosters until late this autumn.

  12. Hampus asked “What lunatic nonsense is this!?” and yes, as JJ said, usual American nonsense, in this case inflected with laws that were written in part by Christian Scientists, who believe in faith healing and are often anti-vaccination.

    The anti-vaccination stuff is not, alas, limited to the US, though the “I believe that I shouldn’t have to follow public health guidelines” may be more common here. The last I checked, there were all of six states that didn’t allow religious or “personal belief” exemptions for school vaccination. And that counts as progress–before the Disneyland measles outbreak, there were only two.

  13. For those asking the question about booster shots, we’ve (writing this in my capacity as MSS DH for DisCon III) just added an answer to our FAQ:

    “A booster shot is not a requirement for entry. We are aware that some countries are currently advising third shots for some individuals. This is an evolving health policy area. In the US the Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that it intends to recommend third shots for all Americans who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine eight months after their second dose. Third shots are available to immunocompromised Americans who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines now. Other countries recommend other dosing intervals. As general health advice DisCon III encourages its members to follow whatever policies are in place in their country of residence and to consult their doctor as needed.”

    So, tl;dr, no, we’re not checking that. If you have any other questions please do email covid@discon3.org and we’ll come back to you as quickly as possible.

  14. @Cora
    I wouldn’t call the universal masking requirement merely cosmetic. Yes, cloth and soft surgical masks aren’t impermeable to viral particles, but even homemade cloth masks filter 70% of those particles.

    https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n432

    As observed before, it’s an odds game. Yes, the odds are certainly better for all the attendants if they are all vaccinated and have a 1% chance of a breakthrough infection than if they have multiple unvaccinated people attending who took a recent COVID test that has a 20% chance of false negatives AND were not designed to detect a person who had just become infected but would advance to contagiousness during the course of the con.

    However, with variables like how prevalent COVID will be in the general population at the time of the con, how many participants will receive boosters and when, how many people will attend the con in total – none of which the con can accurately predict this far in advance – it’s hard to say just how likely it is that there will be one or more vaccinated people at the con who unwittingly have a breakthrough asymptomatic infection.

    That’s where masks come in. Yes, a person with an asymptomatic infection wearing a mask will still leak some viral particles. But this quantity is only apparently 30% what it would be without the mask. Apparently the lower the initial dose of infecting virus, the lesser the likelihood of both infection and of serious illness if infected.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7686757/

    Having the infected person surrounded by only vaccinated people at the con makes it less likely that the COVID brought in will find fertile ground to catch and spread. But if the vaccinated infected person AND the people around them are all wearing masks? That means the infected person is only spreading a diluted initial dose of 30% of what they’re exhaling, AND all the other participants are wearing filters that reduce further to some extent the amount of viral particles they are inhaling? The odds go down even further that the virus will find ways to catch and spread.

    Masks are still useful in controlling spread. They’ve been shown to be effective in cutting the rate of general respiratory infections in studies done since World War I. They’re not a miraculous cure-all for COVID – but in this fight, no weapon we have is. As this Reuters article says, it’s misleading to say masks are useless because they don’t filter out all aerosols. It’s like saying seatbelts are now useless and unnecessary because we’ve invented air bags, which are more effective at saving people in crashes. Using both is still better in most cases than either alone.

  15. Mayor’s order 2021-066 appears to have been superseded by Mayor’s order 2021-097, issued July 29 2021, which states “Businesses may establish rules that are stricter than the requirements in this order or a rule, order, or other issuance issued under the authority of this Order relating both to mask wearing outdoors and showing proof of vaccination in order to enter their facilities.”

  16. The thing about masks is – the cost of wearing them is negligible. So even if the benefits aren’t huge, it still makes sense from a cost-benefit perspective.

  17. bookworm1398 says The thing about masks is – the cost of wearing them is negligible. So even if the benefits aren’t huge, it still makes sense from a cost-benefit perspective.

    Indeed they are. I’m purchasing the ones my NP recommended fifty at a time for ten bucks. Twenty cents apiece is certainly affordable even if I’m wearing it to go to a medical appointment for several hours and tossing it afterwards. I’m not out that much anyways so it’s not a major expense.

  18. This thread may be a good place to ask… given that Worldcon/BWAWA is facing various financial risks, what’s the best way to support the organization? I’ve already purchased an attending membership. Are there any other revenue streams through which I could send them more money? (e.g. buying publications? making purchases in the hotel from which the con gets a cut?)

  19. That order supersedes the previous Covid orders “only to the extent of inconsistency”, which is not clear to me at least. Universities in DC, for example, say students may claim medical and religious exemptions. I don’t know if you can easily walk into a DC bar and show your proof of religious exemption, but possibly you could in principle.

  20. My Primary Care Provider just sent this:

    Dear Martin’s Point Patient,

    As you may know, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently authorized a third (booster) dose of mRNA-style COVID-19 vaccine for people with compromised immune systems. Martin’s Point has booster vaccine available now and will begin offering it to our eligible patients only. Please read the important information below to see if you are eligible and, if so, how to receive your booster vaccine.

    ELIGIBILITY: To be eligible for the booster now, you must meet two conditions:

    You must be considered to have a compromised immune system. This includes individuals with at least one of the following:

    Have been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
    Have received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
    Have received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
    Have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
    Have advanced or untreated HIV infection
    Have active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

    You must have completed two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. It should be at least 28 days since you received your second dose. Patients who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine are not yet approved for a booster at this time.

  21. Requiring masks in hallways, the dealers room and other much frequented areas, where keeping one’s distance isn’t always possible makes sense. Requiring masks everywhere, even for people on panels and other programming, even though everybody in the building should be fully vaccinated, strikes me as excessive. Reducing the capacity of program rooms to make sure that people can keep sufficient distance from each other and good ventilation would be more effective. But since the current hotel is apparently much smaller than their original venue, that might not be possible.

  22. I expect that BWAWA dba Discon III is considered a “business” for the purpose of the DC regulations, as being a non-profit corporation doesn’t necessarily shield you from all regulations.

    As noted, Worldcon is not run by WSFS. WSFS is only the sanctioning body. In effect, when a group wins a bid, they get a limited license to use the WSFS service marks, but WSFS doesn’t operationally manage the convention. This is similar to how the International Olympic Committee doesn’t run the Olympics. They just set the rules and license the right to hold the event to a local host committee, and that committee is responsible for the event, not the IOC.

    Essentially, as long as a Worldcon committee follows the WSFS Constitution (which amounts to the licensing agreement), they can run things their way in almost every element except the tiny few that are regulated by the Constitution. And as far as I can see, DC3 did so (except regarding the site selection filing deadline, but the convention stepped around it by letting Winnipeg onto the ballot) and is doing so. I see nothing inconsistent with WSFS rules in how they are handling COVID-19.

  23. Few facilities have made truly effective HVAC changes to reduce aerosol or airborne virus transmission.

    Vaccines are amazing, but need to be supported by masking, capacity controls and a host of other precautions to minimize spread of the virus. They work, but they can’t do the job alone.

  24. Hey, there’s an idea: a power ranking of the Murderbot stories. Or maybe even … brackets?

    Here in New Zealand, only 20% of the population is fully vaccinated so far (we’ve gone all-in on Pfizer). Boosters may be somewhere in our future, but right now there are more concerns about getting the rest of the world vaccinated (mainly the ones outside North America & Europe who have been getting most of the global vaccine production). I have no plans to travel internationally in the near future.

    Right now, I can leave New Zealand, but getting back will be very difficult. NZ is currently closed to non-residents unless you have special exemption. And even if you are a resident, you still have to find a spot in the quarantine hotels; all returnees have to spend 2 weeks in mandatory quarantine. Quarantine hotel rooms are few and ones that become available are quickly snaffled up.

  25. Requiring masks in hallways, the dealers room and other much frequented areas, where keeping one’s distance isn’t always possible makes sense. Requiring masks everywhere, even for people on panels and other programming, even though everybody in the building should be fully vaccinated, strikes me as excessive.

    There’s been a documented case of unmasked people indoors at a restaurant getting infected from a distance of 21 feet (6.5 meters). AC can do weird things with air currents.

  26. @Cat Eldridge

    So bill asks

    bill did not ask. bill stated.

    @jayn’s comments about percentages and odds make me wonder if the dominant potential source of infection is unvaccinated hotel staff, and if that source is so large compared to everything else that worrying about masks on pre-symptomatic breakthrough-infected vaccinated attendees is equivalent to shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

  27. Yes bill, you are indeed making shit up. The D.C. affiliate of The American Hotel & Lodging Association began working with the CDC to prioritize hotel workers on a COVID-19 vaccination schedule as soon as the vaccine was available. Hotel workers there have an extremely high level of vaccinations. DisCon III is being held in very safe hotel.

  28. Cat has to dig deep into the history of this discussion to figure out this comment by bill: bill did not ask. bill stated.

    You do the scientific process, don’t you? The first first booster shots given anywhere were given in Israel last month. Therefore there can be no comparative studies to see if individuals who had a booster are better protected against the Covid-19 virus versus those who did not get the Covid-19 booster.

    We don’t know as the former as the booster they took will not have fully protected them yet. So any studies that you want to see about those comparisons won’t be out for many months to come.

  29. There may be data from studies (I don’t know enough to know if studies differ significantly from trials) regarding boosters available to the CDC if not the general public since I know two people participating in a study for J&J regarding one shot vs. one shot and booster. I would be really surprised to learn that Pfizer and Moderna hadn’t done similar studies prior to recommending boosters.

  30. Lorien Gray says There may be data from studies (I don’t know enough to know if studies differ significantly from trials) regarding boosters available to the CDC if not the general public since I know two people participating in a study for J&J regarding one shot vs. one shot and booster. I would be really surprised to learn that Pfizer and Moderna hadn’t done similar studies prior to recommending boosters.

    There can’t be any studies about boosters as there hadn’t been boosters done prior to the Israel government authorisation of them last month. So J&J can’t have looked at one shot vs. one shot and booster as the original process isn’t one plus booster but an initial shot follow by a second one to complete the process or the J&J one off which has proved to be way, way less effective with a protection rate somewhere around as low as fifty percent. So there’s been no boosters out there long enough to say how effective they will be. It is of course hoped that they will, pun intended, boost the immune system.

    J&J is so uncertain about their vaccine right now that they are not even filing for final approval until at least the end of this year.

  31. Cat, I know Pfizer has been doing booster studies because I follow someone who participated in it. The company doesn’t need the same sort of approval to do studies with volunteers as they do to open up boosters to the general public. I am pretty sure the FDA authorized the boosters after seeing the study data.

  32. Lenore Jones says Cat, I know Pfizer has been doing booster studies because I follow someone who participated in it. The company doesn’t need the same sort of approval to do studies with volunteers as they do to open up boosters to the general public. I am pretty sure the FDA authorized the boosters after seeing the study data.

    Good to know. A friend just got his booster because his immune compromised as he’s a kidney recipient and he’s a cancer patient as well. So he got his Moderna third jab this past week.

  33. @Cat – So Lenore Jones knows someone in a Pfizer booster study and you believe her and I know two people in a still ongoing J&J booster study and you dimiss it as nonsense. I think I’m a bit insulted.

  34. Brian:

    Yes, the 12th edition, which was published in 2020 (as the item you cited mentioned would happen), has additional rules for electronic voting and remotely held meetings. This still does not affect the WSFS Business Meeting, whose constitution prohibits it (an organization’s governing document takes precedence over its parliamentary authority), but may be relevant to the Westercon Business Meeting. As I’m chair of both of these this year, I’m studying the new rules to see how they may apply to Westercon. For Worldcon, the WSFS Constitution would need to be amended. There is a committee that has been studying how to modify the rules to allow remote participation.

    (Indeed, I’m having to read RONR completely through just to make sure there haven’t been changes that affect either Westercon or WSFS.)

    I have some opinions about the subject of remote participation, but as the presiding officer over a meeting that might be debating such changes, I’m biting my tongue because I already have to recuse myself over Worldcon site selection business, and I don’t want to have to do so over any other subjects.

  35. @Cora said

    Reducing the capacity of program rooms to make sure that people can keep sufficient distance from each other

    Indoors, especially with Delta, distancing makes much less difference than you want it to, because aerosols build up in rooms. And as others have noted, most places have not really amped up ventilation, and A/C causes weird air currents that can infect people even far away. So limiting numbers of people in rooms enough to make a difference would make for so few people in rooms as to be untenable. Say a room that usually seats 60 can have 20 – how do you allocate those seats fairly? And if you just say first-come, first-serve, the long lines of people forming to get into them will be fertile transmission grounds. This is why masking is important in addition to everything else. Belt and suspenders, seat belt and air bag.

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