Conferences in a Time of COVID

Last week, posting was very light because I attended two conferences. Some observations:

  1. There seem to be more people than I would like or expected who are infectious disease microbiology-adjacent and who clearly aren’t masking, unless absolutely required. This is disappointing.
  2. At both meetings, vaccination and boosters were required; the first meeting required mask wearing, while the second did not (I think). At the first meeting, I would argue mask compliance was around 99%, with a breakdown of surgical/cloth masks, KN95s, and N95s around 35%, 55%, and 10%. At the second meeting, mask wearing was around 75 percent, with roughly the same breakdown of the type of mask.
  3. People did take their masks off to eat and drink, including breaks. Some were eating quickly, but many others would keep their masks off for ten to twenty minutes at a time while indoors* (i.e., not just while actually eating or drinking).
  4. All that said, the first meeting (around 275 attendees) and the second meeting (125 people) each reported one positive case during the meeting. No word about more cases (yet).
  5. Kind of unrelated, but it’s clear that people who drive everywhere do not realize that, if you’re masking and using mass transit, ‘mask wearing time’ includes transit time.

What I find weird about the mask wearing is that it’s just not hard. On Wednesday, I donned my N95 mask (3M Aura 9205) at 7:40am, and with a few short breaks that totaled about twenty minutes (including eating), wore the mask until 7pm*. It wasn’t fun, but it can be done: the point isn’t that I’m tough, it’s that a not-tough guy like me can do this. It’s not fun (eleven hours with an N95 isn’t awesome), but it’s possible.

But I’m willing to take a break from conferences for a while.

*On the days where I had a hotel room, it wasn’t so bad–I could always go to my room for a short while. Fortunately, it was warm enough to dine outside too, so meals weren’t a problem.

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2 Responses to Conferences in a Time of COVID

  1. Bill Seymour says:

    I serve on an ISO standards committee whose first post-COVID face-to-face meeting is coming up early next month in Kailua-Kona, HI. I would have very much liked to attend, but I now plan to Zoom in instead.

    The next meeting will be in Bridgewater, NJ, in early February; and I plan to ride trains all the way. I’ll have private rooms from St. Louis to D.C. and from New York City back home; so I’ll need to wear my N95 for about two and a half hours on the Acela Express from D.C. to Metropark eastbound, and then, beginning my (mostly) westbound trip, for just under one hour on NJT from Bridgewater to Newark Penn and another twenty minutes or so on an Amtrak train to New York Penn (plus time waiting in various stations, of course).

    That’s easily doable.

  2. Anat says:

    I still wear my mask at work (except for lunch break), and since I commute by bus there’s an extra hour of mask wearing on each end of the day. No big deal, planning to keep doing it. That’s my new normal, I’m not looking for a sign or reason that I should stop.

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