The Future of Mask Mandates at Meetings

Mask mandates have been lifted in most parts of the United States, but the potential for another COVID-19 surge lingers. Should associations with in-person meetings this spring and summer maintain the mask mandates they previously had in place? Event organizers in the PCMA Catalyst community discussed the topic.

Author: Convene Editors       

event attendees in masks

Attendees wearing masks watch Paula Abdul perform at PCMA Convening Leaders 22 at Caesar’s Forum in Las Vegas. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

PCMA’s Catalyst community offers members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion.

“With the latest updates to recommended mask policies from the CDC, are associations with spring meetings still mandating masks onsite? We’re in Chicago [in the spring] and are debating about this internally,” Beth O’Brien, CMP, DES, director of meetings and conventions, Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP), asked her peers on the Catalyst forum. “Also, how are your registration numbers? Thanks!”

Everything is up in the air. I am guessing we will have a more normal spring and fall with a few hiccups here and there. I think for us the biggest problem is people’s confidence, and how much fear [is] still dictating legislation.

— Pepe Gomez, CEO, DCPV360

We are following the local guidance of the city where the conference is. If they require masks, we’ll require. If not, we are no longer requiring masks. We are sending personal protective equipment to show sites in case people need anything. Of course, if something changes, we will update our policies.

— Stephanie Dumey, Senior Manager, American International Association of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

So far, [registration] numbers have been up. In fact, a couple of conferences that we have done have exceeded their totals from 2019. With regards to protocols and mandates, you obviously want to follow local government regulations. What I have seen with respect to attendees is that with each passing day of the conference, you will see fewer and fewer masks being worn. If you have daily testing, attendees try their best to avoid it after the first day. It’s like [playing] cat and mouse for the testers trying to catch attendees coming through the door. I think you have a little time to see how things go before making a final decision.

— Amilcar Mendez, Managing Partner, Rayne Event Tech & Lounge

The Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) is hosting their meeting at the Chicago Hilton. Now that the City of Chicago and the Chicago Hilton have lifted proof of vaccination and masks, ASCD will follow the same. We will have signage encouraging the wearing of masks throughout the conference. We know some will continue to wear masks and others will not.

— Noreen Burke, CEM, Director of Business Development, Corcoran Expositions

We are seeing a sudden shift and relaxing of mask and testing protocols after the CDC reduced the COVID-19 mandates late last week. I have a team headed to the Indianapolis Convention Center next week and they just recalled prior plans of requiring testing, proof of vaccination, and masks mandates. After this show released the updated statement, I’ve started to see a few more shows and conventions begin to follow the same standards.

— Cole Sales, Marketing Manager, Engaged Companies

For masking, if it’s not mandated then you may not need to require them. But I would not discount continued reluctance to shed all protection — masks, having lots of people together inside, etc. Personally, even though where I live we have high vaccination rates and mask requirements are being lessened, I still wear mine indoors for the most part, partly because we’ve been down this road — lifting requirements, new variant, requirements come back. Since wearing a mask is easy for me, I keep doing it.

The reason I share that is to advocate for normalizing people making choices that make them comfortable attending in-person gatherings. As someone mentioned in a reply, some will choose to wear masks, some will not. We need to make both okay (as long as mandates/requirements are not in place). And if an attendee is going to be headed home to someone who is immunocompromised or has young children who can’t get a vaccination yet, they may choose an abundance of caution. We won’t know everyone’s situation, so we need to make it easy for them to make the choice to attend. … Mostly, I’d advise, regular and as consistent as possible communication with your attendees.

— Mary de la Fe, CAE, CMP, DES, Owner, MCJ Meetings

Read previous Catalyst discussion in our Catalyst Questions Archive.

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