Why We Are Requiring Masks at CONvergence 2021 And More
Dear CONvergence Members,
Last week, we sent you a communication regarding this year’s plans for the CONvergence convention. As you might imagine, it generated a lot of buzz and excitement, as well as a wide range of emotions. We know that we’re not going to be able to please everyone this year and some of you may be downright sad or angry. If you are, we’re very sorry for that. The choices we are making are hard ones that we never imagined we’d have to make. We’re still in a pandemic, and our most important priority is the wellbeing of our community. We will stand by that, even at the cost of making some people frustrated or sad.
So much of what we have been navigating is uncharted territory. There was no CONvergence Pandemic Plan™ in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.” Instead we have conducted research, spoken with various State agencies, and consulted experts around what we can do and what makes the most sense. We ask you to understand that the rules we have decided to implement are coming from that place. We don’t claim them to be perfect, and we don’t believe any of them are wrong, but we do welcome your feedback and additional information.
We’ve laid out plans for our 2021 convention, but there is still more work to be done and we have not stopped researching and checking in with the Minnesota Department of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and the Governor’s office, to name a few. As new information emerges that tells us better ways to accomplish our goals or informs us of a measure that should not be implemented, we will analyze and consider that information. We may implement new rules/guidelines that we can verify are the right thing to do.
We have no intention to do anything but the best for our community, and as a community we need you to work with us, both to help us be aware and cognizant of information we don’t have, and also to give us the benefit of the doubt in working to support one another. If we become aware that safety measures should not be done, you have our commitment that we will update them—but as of now these rules and measures stand.
We received a number of questions on a few short topics. Below are answers to some of the most common questions we’ve received.
Why are we requiring masks if everyone attending is vaccinated?
One of the greatest misconceptions of COVID-19 precautions and vaccines are that either are 100%-guaranteed effective. They are not.
- While the vaccines are very effective, we are still learning how effective they are for different people with different health circumstances, how long they last, and what holistically they can protect against. You can be vaccinated and still catch COVID-19, still be a carrier, or still be asymptomatic. It is still possible to pass the infection to another person, who can take it home to their unvaccinated loved ones.
- Likewise, masks are not 100% effective, but being vaccinated and wearing a mask together represents the greatest percentage chance of preventing transmission.
Our community includes many people with health conditions such as immunodeficiencies, cancer, breathing disorders, diabetes, etc. that could reduce the efficacy of their vaccination and/or make them more susceptible to becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19. While we are requiring people to be vaccinated and masked, we cannot guarantee that no one will encounter anyone or anything that is not free of COVID-19 contamination. The common spaces in the hotel do not require vaccination; people in the streets will not all be vaccinated; vaccinated people can contract the virus and carry it; and some of our members coming from out of town will create different levels of risk for our community. And so, while nothing we can do is 100% guaranteed to prevent COVID-19 transmission, we feel it is important to do everything we can to minimize the chance that anyone can become infected.
Some may ask: why, since we can’t guarantee 100% protection, would we add a measure that seems like it would only have a small effect? In our opinion, a small effect may make all the difference to a member of our community, and if something seemingly so small saves the life of even one person, then it is worth doing. Our hope and belief is that everyone in our community feels the same and would prioritize the life of even one of our members over the convenience of not wearing a mask.
Finally, while the CDC does say that vaccinated people can go back to “regular” activities, for the average person, regular activities don’t include large conventions. Thus, the CDC has additional specific guidance for large events like ours and actually does recommend masks:
Guidance for Organizing Large Events and Gatherings
Updated May 20, 2021
Promoting Healthy Behaviors that Reduce Spread
Event planners should consider implementing strategies to encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19 among staff and attendees.
- Require that staff and attendees wear well-fitting masks that fit completely over their nose and mouth. Make a plan beforehand for how compliance will be monitored and ensured.
- Encourage attendees ahead of the event to bring and use masks at the event. Consider having masks on-hand to provide to staff and attendees who do not bring their own.
Click here to read the full CDC guidance for large events.
Rolling Over Memberships
If you purchased a membership for CONvergence 2020 in 2019 or 2020, and you did not request a refund when the convention was postponed, your membership has been automatically rolled forward for the 2021 membership cycle and this year’s convention. You can verify your membership status by logging into your account as if you were going to register and check under “My Registered Events” on the pull down menu. Click here for help using the registration system. If you have further questions, contact the CONvergence Registration department at [email protected].
If you do not plan to attend CONvergence 2021 and do not need to retain your voting rights for Convergence Events elections, you can transfer your membership to someone else and recoup the cost just like in any other Convention year. All transactions are the responsibility of yourself and the other party. You can find information on how to do this on the CONvergence Registration Page.
We hope this helps answer some of your questions regarding last week’s announcement, and would like to sincerely thank you for your patience and support. This convention, our community, only works when we work together.
Convergence Events Board of Directors