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. It also technically makes it more likely that I’ll attend as I am double vaccinated 🙂 but I think we are at least a year if not longer before international travel is normal again. It is a sign of the steps we need to get past the virus and I’m happy for those safely vaccinated people who will be able to attend.

    Also, conventions should normalise vaccination policies for easily communicable diseases where an easily available vaccine exists. Cons shouldn’t be fermentation tanks.

  2. Has this changed? “Section 1.5.3 The rights of attending members of a Worldcon include the rights of supporting members plus the right of general attendance at said Worldcon and at the WSFS Business Meeting held thereat.”

  3. Well, I wouldn’t have attended anyway (though I am fully vaccinated) because the timing is terrible for me. Also, I can’t wear masks for long periods of time, so this would be torture for me. I still think DisCon should have gone fully virtual, which would have been safer for everybody.

  4. @Cora Buhlert–

    I still think DisCon should have gone fully virtual, which would have been safer for everybody.

    It would have been better, but the hotel wasn’t willing to let them cancel without a shutdown order compelling them to. DisCon III literally can’t afford to do that.

  5. Mike, as I read this – no, it hasn’t. So everything that happens at the business meeting or otherwise required under the constitution to be held at the convention is illegitimate, including the vote for 2023. Understood.

  6. R.B. – is the point of your question an assertion that DCIII cannot mandate requirements that would infringe on people’s right to attend? Cause if so, that’s patently wrong. Just like the venue can mandate shoes or shirt for service, so to can DisCon mandate rules regarding what’s required for attendance. If you don’t want to obey those rules, you can get a refund on the portion of your membership that covers attendance.

  7. FWIW, CES (which used to stand for Consumer Electronics Show, but is now just a non-acronymic name) will similarly be requiring vac proof for their upcoming Jan 2022 annual show in Vegas.

    And at another recent tech event, according to colleagues, once you showed your proof, you got a wrist band.

  8. Tammy, do you believe there are any limits to what they can require? Here they are even refusing attendance to people who can’t get vaccinated. They’re not even allowed to show proof of a negative test. They may have some ADA problems there.

  9. Or they may not have ADA problems, given that the ADA specifically provides “This part does not require a public accommodation to permit an individual to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of that public accommodation when that individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.” There are quite obviously limits to what the convention can require of attendees, but demanding that attendees not be a danger to others is so obviously a reasonable requirement that I can’t take seriously anyone objecting to it.

  10. The rights of attending members of a Worldcon include the rights of supporting members plus the right of general attendance at said Worldcon and at the WSFS Business Meeting held thereat.

    This language does not convey an absolute right to attend.

    There’s precedent for past Worldcons refusing admittance to some attending members. Their membership is downgraded to supporting. For example, Worldcon 76 chose to downgrade Jon Del Arroz.

    A Worldcon can have its own the rule that attending members will be downgraded to supporting if they are not vaccinated.

  11. It would have been better, but the hotel wasn’t willing to let them cancel without a shutdown order compelling them to. DisCon III literally can’t afford to do that.

    Yes, I understand that the hotel is at fault here, but it’s still unfortunate. I don’t think anybody wanted another virtual Worldcon, but it would have been safer for everybody.

    Regarding the vaccination requirement, I note that there is still no mention whether DisCon will accept all vaccines or only those approved in the US (i.e. Biontech/Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, but not AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and Sinovac), even though several people have repeatedly asked them that question.

    @rcade
    They’re actually downgrading them to virtual, which means they can still participate in programming, only remotely. This seems fair enough to me.

  12. Stephen, is a person who tests negative for COVID any more of a threat to the health and safety of others than a person who is vaccinated?

  13. Because of this policy, I’m more likely to be able to attend. Lisa was getting increasingly antsy about attending, and she and I are fully vaccinated. One of the reasons we’re going by train is that we consider it much safer as we will have a compartment of our own.

    RB: No, for the reasons others have already stated and then some. Your argument is specious. You strike me as one of those people (alas, way too common today) who say, “I have the right to do anything whatsoever that I want, without the slightest consequence! Laws don’t apply to me, only those Other People!” Or, as I’m wont to call it, “The Freedumb Fallacy.”

    Frankly, last year’s Worldcon was generous in not going ahead and holding a full-blown business meeting in New Zealand, but instead holding a mostly pro forma meeting that merely punted all action forward one year. They had a quorum of attending members and could have done anything allowed by the WSFS Constitution. The fact that most of the members of the convention were not allowed to enter the country is immaterial: CoNZealand could have done it, and it would have been legitimate under WSFS rules.

    In practical terms, who is going to actually make and enforce a ruling that no actions taken by the DC3 meeting are legal?

  14. R.B. saysTammy, do you believe there are any limits to what they can require? Here they are even refusing attendance to people who can’t get vaccinated. They’re not even allowed to show proof of a negative test. They may have some ADA problems there.

    As Steven desJardins pointed out, this doesn’t conflict with ADA in any what so ever. What a private party can do, so long as they stay within the law, is pretty much up to them. And yes, they can refuse attendance to folks can’t get vaccinated. Lots of venues are doing the same now. It’s a public health matter.

    Btw there are almost no adults who cannot be vaccinated. There’s a handful of folks with rare allergies that can’t be vaccinated as a general rule, some severe cancer patients are at risk if they’re vaccinated and well, that’s it. Even those with compromised immune systems can get the vaccinations as my NP who had a kindness transplant got hers. Most of the folks who say that they can’t be vaccinated are lying.

  15. @Cat: I know it’s a typo, but more people should get a kindness transplant

  16. Cora Buhlert on August 19, 2021 at 2:30 pm said:

    Regarding the vaccination requirement, I note that there is still no mention whether DisCon will accept all vaccines or only those approved in the US (i.e. Biontech/Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, but not AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and Sinovac), even though several people have repeatedly asked them that question.

    The policy says (emphasis mine):

    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.

    I think that addresses your question.

  17. Kevin Standlee,

    I find this disappointing. I’m sorry I strike you this way. I merely believe that Discon III should narrowly tailor their policy to serve the purpose of keeping their members safe. I think requiring masks and vaccinations or negative tests serve that purpose.

  18. As for the rest of it, I get it. No one is going to hold Worldcon to account for this. There is what they should do and what the can do. What IMO they should do is allow people to submit negative tests – at least within 72 hours. Or heck they test people outside. I’m sure they can find an organization which will do that. They’re going to do what they can do instead, which is make a statement.

  19. I would not be satisfied with an unvaccinated person getting a negative test a day or two before the convention, traveling through various airports, and potentially becoming contagious during the convention. The risk to myself and other attendees is too high.

  20. @Various: I’m so happy with this; a sensible, safety-conscious policy! YAY! My favorite part is NO EXCEPTIONS. I.e., no, really, this is for the health and safety of everyone, and we’re not going to buy into the B.S. that not wanting to do something or being unable makes it okay to be unsafe.

    I’ll feel much more comfortable about attending, with this policy. We’ll still bring the HEPA filter for the hotel room, of course. But I’ll feel a lot less stressed. (My participation level may still be less than usual, though.)

    I may not eat in public, but I’ll probably bring a reusable water bottle with a sturdy straw thatI can slip under my mask between panels/events.

    @R.B.: Nice try (but not really).

  21. Andrew (not Werdna) says to me I know it’s a typo, but more people should get a kindness transplant.

    I meant kidney but she actually is one of the kindness folks you’ll ever have the privilege of knowing.

    I really do need a mind that doesn’t do word salad. (And she hates it when I use the term as it has specific neurological connotations that may or may not apply to me.)

  22. The travel petri dish is definitely an issue for negative tests – vaccination is much safer.

    I’d be fairly surprised if very many of the very small number of truly unable to get vaccinated are feeling revved up about attending a convention right now, honestly, given that that inability generally comes packaged with vulnerability.

  23. Discon III came up with what they believe is the best, most workable policy, in consultation with healthcare professions. That’s not “making a statement” (except just the literal sense, not the politically-charged sense @R.B. means).

    Would that more companies had policies like this.

    And you know what? If you won’t get the vaccine or can’t get it . . . it’s safer for you to skip traveling/attending, too!

  24. R.B. There is evidence that people with the Delta variant shed virus for 48 hours before they show symptoms OR a positive test. Negative test results don’t mean much. DisCon’s chair specifically mentioned that as why they crafted the policy the way they did.

  25. Even original Covid-19 had a noticeable gap between infection and positive test, never mind showing symptoms. It doesn’t surprise me a tiny bit that Delta has one.

    This is the best policy they could come up with, period, if they were going to host an in person event knowing how serious Delta is right now and not able to predict where things will be in several months That the R.B.s of the world want to make it politics or an issue is much more reflective on them than the convention.

    (I’m biased; I have children under 12 and grave concerns. I’m also not going, so I’m not biased. Make of that conundrum what you will.)

  26. Meredith says I’d be fairly surprised if very many of the very small number of truly unable to get vaccinated are feeling revved up about attending a convention right now, honestly, given that that inability generally comes packaged with vulnerability.

    Those that can’t be vaccinated have co-conditions, I won’t call them co-morbidities as that has negative connotations, that makes them extremely unlikely to attending any large gathering as it’s too high a risk for them.

    The vast majority of folks claiming that they cannot be vaccinated are lying. They can be vaccinated but are trying at all costs, for whatever reasons, to avoid being vaccinated. So they deserve to banned from events like DisCon III. Their choice to be outside the fold.

  27. @Cora Buhlert: AstraZeneca vaccines apparently have been approved by the CDC here – at least, the study center where I participated in vaccine trials FINALLY were able to give me an official CDC card certifying me as vaccinated, just a few wks ago.

  28. R.B.: While having an attending membership gives you the right to attend, there’s nothing that says a Worldcon is required to grant you an attending membership. Now if they choose to take away your attendance rights, they should refund your membership, and they have said that they will downgrade and refund memberships for people who can’t or won’t abide by their policies.

    And even having an attending membership doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to be able to participate. What if you’re not allowed to enter the country where the convention is being held? That’s not academic, you know. There are people who I know who would attend and participate in the Business Meeting, but the US government does not allow them to enter the USA. That doesn’t invalidate the actions of the Business Meeting, either.

    Incidentally, R.B., assuming you had a DC3 membership and choose to attend, and you caught COVID-19 from another membership who wasn’t vaccinated and presented a test result but happened to be carrying the virus anyway, would you hold the convention responsible? You may say no now, but I suspect that a lot of people suffering from The Freedumb Fallacy change their minds when they actually come down with the disease, like those people who test positive and then say, “Oh, give me the vaccine now,” and are amazed when the doctors say, “Too late.”

  29. Kevin,

    What if you come down with it at Discon from someone who is vaccinated? I’m not asking this as part of some hypothetical. This actually happened at convention in my town recently. A friend who was vaccinated (like me – we were both vaccinated with both shots of the Pfizer at the same time,) came down with COVID symptoms three days after the convention. She tested positive and suffered through the thankfully relatively mild case along with her husband. The people she spent time with who also tested positive were vaccinated too and avoided hospitalization. Thanks no doubt to the vaccine.

    My brother who caught it in March 2020 before the vaccines were developed was not so lucky. He was on a ventilator for three weeks. We’re thankful he is alive.

    The answer is no, I do not hold the con responsible, neither does my friend. Neither of us hold Pfizer responsible either for that matter or the government for authorizing the vaccine. We’re all better off for it and she and her friends assumed the risk by going to the con.

    So I can tell you from experience that you are still assuming a risk by going to Discon, but that having been vaccinated is the best defense for YOU. Much as testing negative doesn’t completely eliminate the risk of having it, neither does being vaccinated. It’s not about “Freedumb” or politics or anything else.

  30. Let me add this for those people who seem to think my posts on this are part of some stereotypical comments from the Others. I tried to think recently of the number of people I know who have contracted COVID and I lost count after fifteen. Of those, three have been hospitalized and one, who should have been hospitalized, died alone in his apartment. For my part, I got vaccinated as soon as my age group was eligible and I was able to get in an appointment. I take this thing seriously.

    But, I still believe Discon would be no less safe by any significant measure allowing negative tests to enter. They’re already taking a small chance by allowing vaccinated people in. More so because of the hotel staff (probably) and other people in the area who aren’t required to be vaccinated. Fortunately, they won’t have many people with the Sinovac. Brazil can tell you that’s a coin flip. IMO, the only real option if they have a safety first approach is to cancel and go completely virtual. Otherwise, there’s always a risk.

  31. @R.B.

    IIRC, as well as being much less likely to get seriously ill, vaccinated people shed a smaller viral load and are therefore less likely to infect others and much less likely to infect others with a serious case.

    Unvaccinated people shed a much greater viral load and are therefore more likely to infect others and infect others more seriously – the people they infect are more likely to get very sick.

    Viral load makes a huge difference to how badly you might be hurt by it.

    Being vaccinated protects everyone, not just the vaccinated. Being unvaccinated is not just risking your own health, but those you might infect.

  32. “There’s always a risk” is no excuse for increasing the risk. Unvaccinated people are an increased risk.

  33. @R.B:

    You asked, earlier:

    Stephen, is a person who tests negative for COVID any more of a threat to the health and safety of others than a person who is vaccinated?

    As mentioned before, one can become positive shortly after a negative test. The test itself has a certain percentage of false negatives as well, so you could have a negative test even while you are infected; apparently the false negative rate can be 20% even under optimal circumstances. (See link). In the numbers attending a large con, the odds go up. The previous POTUS showed us that even the most thorough testing regime by itself can easily fail, and even a few failures in a large crowd…

    Now can a vaccinated person become infected and spread the disease? Absolutely. But the odds are much less that a vaccinated person will become infected – the most recent studies show a rate of less than 1% breakthrough infections (though probably slightly higher, since most breakthrough infections are asymptomatic, so people wouldn’t be aware and test themselves). Can a masked person spread the disease? Certainly. Masks are not impermeable. And there will always be SOME people who either deliberately or absent-mindedly briefly remove masks. But masks DO absorb and filter a great deal of the wearer’s exhalations, thus limiting the range of virus exhaled from potentially infected people. Studies indicate that the lower the initial viral inhalation, the less likely infection is and the less likelihood of serious illness if one IS infected.

    It’s all an odds game. So combine vaccination AND masks for attendees? The odds of infection go down much further for everyone. Not to zero, no. You could lower the odds further by having daily testing for everyone, no eating or drinking on site, and making everyone wear the uncomfortable N-95 mask – but there is a point of impracticality there. There wouldn’t be enough people willing to do that who would sustain a con, IMO.

    I agree that a virtual con would be safest at this time. But if they’re financially OBLIGATED to hold the con in person, I think the current plan strikes a fair balance between safety and practicality. The risks are safer than you can get at, say, any indoor restaurant at the moment.

  34. @R.B.–The policy won’t make attendees perfectly safe, because nothing will make people perfectly safe in this pandemic.

    But, requiring the vaccine or a negative test, won’t make people safer. It won’t even make people equally safe.

    Vaccinated people, if infected, not only don’t get as ill. They also shed a lot less virus if they get infected. That means they are less likely to infect others, and the people they do infect are at less likely to get seriously ill. Viral load makes a very large difference in how sick you get.

    And, vaccinated people are much less likely to get infected in the first place.

    So no, a negative test in the day or so before you enter the convention is not just as safe for the people around you as being fully vaccinated.

    And yes, if you resist the science this hard, you are one of Those People.

  35. Meredith,
    Unvaccinated people are an increased risk. That’s true. But how much of an increased risk are unvaccinated people who have tested negative? It’s not zero, but how much? Honestly, I don’t know and I don’t know how it compares to other factors, but I’m certain holding an in-person convention is certainly a greater increased risk by many orders of magnitude. Besides the risk from the attendees will be other people attendees are in contact with many of whom will not be vaccinated and have not been tested at all. Discon made a decision to go live anyway which they did not have to do.

    When they did, they decided it was worth the risk. They decided to allow foreign FDA unauthorized vaccines, including Sinovac, vaccine as acceptable. That was also a decision that the committee felt was worth the increased risk.

    And, of course, while all of these factors are an increased risk to anyone, they are much less of a risk to a vaccinated person. At that point, we are splitting smaller and smaller percentages. I don’t know how small, but at some point they become counterbalanced by other considerations – even by Discon.

  36. Lis, I would never resist The Science. I get that an unvaccinated person is more infectious than a vaccinated person and some people who test negative are positive. The question is to what extent is the risk of infection to a vaccinated person increased by allowing people who have tested negative into Discon? Do you know that answer?

  37. R.B.: Discon made a decision to go live anyway which they did not have to do.

    DisCon III has a $400,000 obligation with the Omni which they can’t get out of, short of a state or municipal lockdown, which does not appear likely. There is no way for them to cover that obligation with a purely virtual event.

    I don’t like their decision, either, but I can see why they made it.

  38. Let’s also keep in mind that everyone who’s been vaccinated who’s attending DisCon III should have had a booster at least a few months before attending the Con as the booster shots start a month from now.

    Anyone who’s adamantly refused to be vaccinated won’t have that added immunity and therefore is a risk to everyone. That’s why the seven day test doesn’t work as it doesn’t guarantee that they’re not infected at the time of the Con. The test result only means that they did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing.

  39. JJ,

    Exactly! They balanced competing factors and made what they felt was the best decision in light of the facts as they saw them. This is my point. They had the same opportunity with the no-exception vaccination policy. Assuming safety is the countervailing interest, I’m still not convinced that the marginal increase in safety to vaccinated people from false-negative people is worth turning members away. Of course, if there other interests in turning those people away, that might change the equation. But as far as I understand the facts, as a safety measure I’m not convinced.

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