Health & Safety Updates for #AWP22 Philadelphia
August 10, 2021
This past spring, the AWP board and staff were hopeful we could return to an in-person conference in Philadelphia, PA, in March 2022. The conference has long been an occasion of reunion, celebration, and the joy that arises when writers connect. Unfortunately, with the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, we are reevaluating health and safety precautions on-site as well as what the Annual Conference & Bookfair might look like in a world still gripped by uncertainty. There will be a virtual component, and while we hope that the COVID outlook improves as March 2022 approaches, attendee health and safety is our priority.
Because #AWP22 is still eight months away, we understand it’s too early for attendees to decide whether to attend an in-person AWP Conference, so we are delaying the opening of registration, the release of hotel and travel information, and the announcement of accepted events until September.
AWP staff is imagining what this year’s conference cycle will look like; determining policies, deadlines, and format; and gathering best practices. Flexibility is the keystone. The small but mighty conference team of four is working hard to make sure they can deliver a safe, valuable experience for attendees while realizing the limits of what can be done with such a small team and reduced resources.
We will continue sharing our planning and providing updates as we learn more. AWP staff is currently working on the following aspects:
♦ Contingency planning
Because we can’t know what March 2022 will look like, the AWP staff understands we need to be prepared for many possibilities, including an all-virtual conference, or a highly curtailed in-person meeting. We are working on timelines for these decisions to be made and corresponding policies and work plans.
♦ Developing COVID-19 precautions and policies
All possibilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at #AWP22 are on the table. We will have clear policies on vaccinations, masking, and social distancing released in the coming weeks so attendees may make an informed decision about whether to attend on-site in Philadelphia once accepted events are announced and registration opens. More specific policies will be announced soon.
♦ Regularly polling attendees
You may have seen that we sent out a survey polling attendee comfort level gathering in-person and what kinds of health & safety measures attendees might want. We plan to continue to survey potential attendees monthly as we move toward March. We want to be sure we are hearing from many voices and that we are being responsive to what the community wants.
♦ Researching and consulting health and safety companies
We are looking into contracting one of a number of companies who can provide on-site services relating to health and safety. Companies like SafeExpo, InHouse Physicians, and CrowdPass all provide vaccine verification and negative test verification services, on-site rapid testing, temperature checks, daily health surveys, and medical supplies and expertise on-site, in addition to our standard practice of providing onsite EMTs.
♦ Determining virtual vs. in-person events
We are planning to host several virtual events for #AWP22 as we did for #AWP21, and we have received many wonderful virtual event proposals. As we get closer to #AWP22, we understand there may also be the desire for events originally proposed as in-person events to be switched to virtual as the situation continues to change. We are considering how much our staff can accommodate virtually vs. in person before releasing accepted events.
♦ Consulting the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the City of Philadelphia
The Pennsylvania Convention Center has received Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation, making it one of the only large venues in the northeast to receive this gold standard for safe venues. This accreditation ensures that the venue is effective in minimizing risks associated with infectious agents, biohazards, and infectious disease, and that they employ cleaning professionals who are trained for outbreak and infectious disease preparation and response. In addition, all added health and safety measures implemented during the pandemic will be kept in place, including disinfection of high-touch surfaces and objects, added hand-sanitizing stations, and improved HVAC and air purification.
Additional Resource Links:
Latest guidance from the City of Philadelphia
Latest guidance from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Latest guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)