The number one question I have been getting from you, the College membership, is “Does the College still plan to have a live meeting in New Orleans in November?” As of today, the answer is definitely “YES.” There is no doubt that the delta variant is running through the unvaccinated population, leading to ICU and hospital beds at or near capacity in many areas of the country. As we know, the variant is more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus, leading to the rapid rise in infection, but the vaccines available for free to all Americans are doing an excellent job in preventing severe infection, hospitalization, and death in the vaccinated.
You may have heard that the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was canceled for this fall by promoters as it brings up to 200,000 people to the Big Easy. SEC football and the NFL are still moving forward with full seasons, with stadiums requiring masks. As you may know, the Superdome is an indoor facility. According to the latest statistics from the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans health departments, in New Orleans ‘proper,’ vaccination rates are still on the rise. 75.1% adults have initiated the vaccine and 66.4% have completed the vaccine treatment.
As of a few days ago, New Orleans is requiring masks for all indoor events (which would include the ACAAI meeting) and has also added a requirement to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination (at least one dose) or a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to the event. These precautions are intended for the safety of all those living in or visiting the area and should help to reduce local transmission in the coming weeks.
So far, it looks like most major medical professional organizations are still planning to hold an in-person event. The American Academy of Pediatrics, CHEST, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meetings are still live/face-to-face and occurring before our November meeting.
The College will continue to monitor the reported number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the area and will keep an eye on cancellations of similar events, if any. We will seek guidance from local and national public health experts on implementing the necessary safety precautions to ensure the health and safety of all attendees, staff and local community. It can’t be stressed enough that your safety is of utmost importance.
You may be wondering, “What if I don’t feel safe attending live in New Orleans?” Similar to what we did prior to the pandemic, the College Annual Meeting will have a Livestream option for members who are not able to attend in person. It includes approximately six hours of CME programming each day, including the Thursday dermatology program, the Friday Literature Review Course, the Saturday, Sunday and Monday plenary sessions, and select afternoon symposia. So even if you can’t make it to New Orleans this year, you can still partake in a great learning experience geared to the community allergist.
What if the city closes down and the meeting does have to be canceled? If this happens, all the sessions scheduled for the Livestream will be captured and broadcast a few weeks after our currently scheduled meeting dates. So no matter what happens related to the ongoing pandemic, the College has you covered just as we did for the 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting.
Presently, it is full steam ahead with New Orleans 2021. The College will keep you updated as we move closer to November. Registration is open. The program developed by Brian Kelly, MD, FACAAI, and the Annual Meeting Program Committee looks terrific. I know I can’t wait to see you there. As they say in New Orleans, “Laissez les bons temps rouler.”