There’s a lot of cancelled cons and cancelled guests at conventions around the world due to the Coronavirus outbreak, and I’m going to do my best to catch us up on the news from the last day.
First and foremost, there are tons of cancelled guests for both SXSW and Emerald City Comic Con. In fact, the rate that these guests are dropping is a far too high volume for me to keep up with, so, for now, I will not be writing about each individual company dropping out and only revisiting these events if they are cancelled or postponed. It will quickly overwhelm my updates if I write about every one of the cancelled guests with these two particular events, so my efforts on that front stop here.
That said, please check out our Coronavirus Convention and Theme Park Impacts page for more details on both cons, as well as links to articles where I discuss the current cancellations so far.
Today’s updates are going to expand further than our previous updates and touch upon smaller cons around the world you may not have heard about yet. The focus has been primarily on the biggies here in the USA (the aforementioned), but with the growing number of outbreak hot spots popping up around the world, local conventions are starting to bear the brunt of these impacts. Often times local cons run on extremely small profit margins if they turn over a profit at all, so one guest or one year of a missed con could place them in jeopardy.
First, let’s see the convention cancellations overall.
The same rule against large gatherings that forced the Paris Livre Book Fair to shut its doors has also caused the cancellation of Paris Manga, a two-day manga and science fiction con set to take place this Saturday and Sunday in Paris. France has banned all large indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people, so they didn’t have much of a choice with this one. There are currently 100 cases in France and two patients have died as a result of the virus, so this type of pro-active approach is understandable.
There’s no end date on this ban, so the Geek Days event in Lille, France is still scheduled to take place on May 16th-17th. This timeline isn’t unusual, however. With the exception of the F8 Conference due to take place at the end of April in California, most conventions around the world are only cancelling a few weeks out, which means things in late April and May are largely a huge question mark at this point worldwide.
Back in the USA, FOGCon, which is scheduled to take place March 6th-8th in Walnut Creek, California, is still on. However, they’ve unfortunately been impacted by the flood of cancelled guests that most conventions are experiencing with one of their main headliners dropping out of the event.
The FOGcon committee is closely watching the developments around the COVID-19 outbreak. As of today (Sunday, March 1), FOGcon is still happening next weekend as scheduled.
Unfortunately, Honored Guest Nisi Shawl has made the difficult choice not to attend after receiving medical advice to avoid air travel due to their high-risk status. They will be greatly missed, and we’re investigating teleconference participation options.
Honored Guest Mary Anne Mohanraj is still looking forward to attending.
We hope to see as many of you as possible at the con but want you to make the best decision for your own health and travel situation. It has historically not been within our means to issue refunds on FOGcon memberships.
However, if you are unable to attend due to illness or COVID-19 concerns, email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the option of rolling over membership to next year or donating your membership for someone else (“Angel Membership”) to attend next year.
The bay area has been particularly impacted by COVID-19, with more than a dozen confirmed cases (and counting), and a cruise ship fiasco happening up in San Francisco. So, in a way having one guest drop out is a pretty minor impact, but nonetheless an unfortunate situation for a small niche convention. We hope they can still have a successful and safe event.
Over in Dallas, we have All-Con, which is proceeding with the convention as scheduled on March 12th-15th, but offering refunds for those who aren’t comfortable attending due to the outbreak. There are currently 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Texas, though none of them are in Dallas. The first cases of community spread were confirmed this morning in Houston, though most of the cases are related to Wuhan evacuees and Diamond Princess passengers being quarantined near San Antonio.
While All-Con doesn’t have any cancelled guests to report, they did give some great general tips on how to battle Con Crud, as well as details about their cancellation policy, contact with authorities about the threat level, and their next convention dates.
At the one-week mark the decision to proceed with the convention has been made. This was not an arbitrary or uninformed decision. It was made after consideration of real time data from the “Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE” map, which tracks confirmed cases of the virus globally. At the time of this writing there are no confirmed cases in or around the Dallas metroplex.
Lets have an unusually serious and honest discussion about this community topic.
We ask that you also be responsible. Every year ALL-CON, and many other cons, take place during the annual cold and flu season. (We all know where “Con Crud” comes from…) Just because COVID-19 isn’t known to be around, nobody wants to see you cough or continually wipe a runny nose. If you don’t feel well, we are asking for you to take a break from the con. We’ll still be here the next time… July 3-4!
Flus are particularly hard on people with underlying conditions. Indoor areas such as malls, grocery stores, clubs, etc. provide increased exposure to the public in general. If you have a condition of concern, we certainly understand and respect that you may want to forego areas with a lot of people.
We have cheerfully refunded badges for people who have voiced uncertainty or concern. We have done it in past years and will continue to do so. We also reserve the right to pull-the-plug on the convention at any time we feel that it might have an elevated risk to our attendees or ourselves. We will continue to diligently watch Johns Hopkins data and CDC reports and be good stewards of your trust.
Whether or not the new community spread cases may escalate fast enough in the next week to attend the con remains to be seen, but the organizers appear committed to transparency over on their Facebook page. They are doing all the right things that conventions should be in the face of this health emergency. Other conventions should take note of this approach and communicate with your attendees! Far too many cons aren’t saying a single word about the issue, despite many of them being in outbreak hotspots.
Over in Australia, we have the Anime Festival in Sydney, which is scheduled to take place on March 7th-8th. While this convention is still scheduled to take place, they’ve been hit by a string of cancelled guests from Japan. Yuki Kaji, Kana Ueda, Kensuke Tateishi, Kaori Maeda, Mayu Sagara, and Luna Haruna have had to pull out of the convention.
Important guest update: pic.twitter.com/WeIX8g1VM7
— Anime Festival (@MadFest) March 3, 2020
There have been 22 confirmed cases in Australia with two deaths. While this might seem like a relatively low number, some doctors feel like it could potentially get worse. With the Anime Festival so close, it’s unlikely to be completely cancelled at this point, but their May convention in Brisbane could be impacted if Australia starts to experience a massive spread of the virus.
However, May is a long way off, so perhaps it’s best to stick to the Sydney con for now and revisit the Brisbane event in a later update. We will keep our eye on this one for sure.
Jumping over to Israel for a second, we have HaruCon. Like France, Israel has banned gatherings of over 5,000 people, however, this con is on the smaller side and does not meet the threshold for mandatory cancellation as its a relatively tiny event.
That said, the con organizers released a statement via Twitter:
In light of the many messages we receive from you following the Corona Virus Committee’s discussion today, we have decided to publish a formal announcement on the subject; Every year the number of visitors to our conferences does not reach 5000 and this year there was no such expectation. So, right now this Harucon 2020 conference is taking place as usual.
In view of the concern, we would like to respect the Ministry of Health’s guidelines regarding quarantine of the states listed on the Ministry of Health website and to avoid attending the conference if necessary.
The Israeli government has instituted strong quarantine guidelines for travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Macau, South Korea, Japan, and Italy. If anyone from those countries planned on attending the con, they may have trouble getting to it. As this is a smaller con, there’s a chance that very few if any guests will have an issue.
So in other words, this may be a time for tiny cons to shine. The biggies are getting pummeled by attendee gathering restrictions and cancelled guests, but conventions with smaller attendee count will still be able to move forward even in countries that have restricted gatherings.
Regardless of the size of your convention, however, please practice good hygiene. Obviously.
And now, pivoting to a con near and dear to my heart, let’s talk Kawaii Kon in Honolulu, Hawaii. I’ve been attending since 2014 and presenting panels at it since 2017. This year’s convention takes place May 15th-17th, which is just on the other side of the March/early April time frame that we are currently seeing for convention impacts. There are no cancelled guests or announced added precautions at this time, but organizers are taking steps to prepare in case the outbreak reaches us (which most of us out here assume has already happened, but just hasn’t been confirmed yet).
There are just 72 days left until Kawaii Kon!
While that seems like an unbelievably small number for those of us who need to finish up cosplays, a lot can still happen in 72 days. We currently have no plans to cancel the convention or move it from its currently scheduled dates – May 15-17. Our number one concern is the safety of our fans, volunteers, and guests. The state of Hawaii, the convention center, and us here at Kawaii Kon will continue to watch carefully and follow the recommended guidelines of our state and federal public health agencies.
In order to keep everyone at the convention healthy and safe, we will be rolling out stricter and more substantial rules on interacting with guests, as well as hygiene and sanitization measures. We know this is a unique concern and we appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to balance fun and safety at the con. As more information becomes available, we will keep you updated on any changes regarding Kawaii Kon 2020.
As you can imagine, being out on an island with a limited supply chain has led to a lot of panic buying and general concern in the community. We just had a cruise ship dock in our port that may have had cases on board (tests are being airlifted to the vessel, which is close to California at this time), so we are all expecting a confirmed case at any moment. Things are tense here.
That said, right now we are all preparing as though the convention is going to happen. And I personally have a high level of trust in these con organizers to make the right decisions for all of their guests and attendees. So now we just have to wait and see when (not if) the virus will get here, how fast we can contain it, and if we can have our annual geek gathering like usual.
Of all the conventions in today’s update, this is the one I’ll likely have my eye on the most as it’s my local con.
Know of a convention that has cancelled guests or other disruptions? Let us know! We’d love to include it in our next update.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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