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AFS COVID Update for Annual Meeting

Annual Meeting News
mural on brick wall says Harrisburg in large letters
A Sprocket Mural Works mural at the Midtown Cinema in Harrisburg, PA. Photo courtesy of Sean Simmers, PennLive.com July 12, 2016

[Status 8/23/21: As explained below, we will meet in-person in Harrisburg as planned, with precautionary measures appropriate to the circumstances in October.]

Like many of you, we are carefully following headlines about the rise in Covid cases, and wondering about the implications for us, our loved ones, our work, and our world.

However, as we narrow the focus to our upcoming Annual Meeting, with its in-person program in Harrisburg, we are proceeding as planned. Why? Because we’ve prepared for this.

As we announced last winter (see ​​AFS Annual Meeting Plans Adapt to 2021 Needs), the 2021 Annual Meeting offers both a substantial virtual program (October 19-21), as well as our much-anticipated in-person gathering in Harrisburg, because we understood that many prospective participants would not be able to travel for a variety of reasons. We also limited the number of sessions in Harrisburg so that we could, if necessary, meet while still maintaining social distancing, as well as observing other precautionary measures, such as longer breaks between sessions and taking receptions off-site.

We are continuing to monitor the situation so that our policies can best address the conditions that face us in October. In the meantime, our current plans are to implement the following measures and urge all of our prospective participants in Harrisburg to take every precaution to protect themselves and others:

  • Update: As of August 23 our policy is that we strongly encourage all attendees to get a Covid vaccine. However, if the current trends in Covid cases continue, we may require proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test.
  • Update: As of August 23, face masks will be mandatory at this year’s annual meeting regardless of your vaccination status.
  • We’ve planned our meeting space to support social distancing as necessary in October.
  • We’re asking for RSVPs for the Harrisburg program so that we can plan to use our meeting space responsibly.

As you contemplate your own plans, you may want to consider:

  • Registration: If you haven’t registered yet, be aware that if we need to enforce capacity limits, we will do so from the date of RSVP surveys sent out to all registrants for the Harrisburg program. If you have registered but you are not presenting, you may withdraw and receive a full registration refund. See Cancellations in Annual Meeting Policies for more information.
  • Hotel: Your reservation at the conference hotel must be booked by September 28, but it can be changed or cancelled until 48 hours prior to check-in without any penalty. Booking in the AFS block at the conference hotel will give you access to the AFS discounted rate and this cancellation policy. Learn more about booking a hotel room.
  • Airfare: You should check with your airline, but many airlines continue to offer flexible tickets including providing credit to be used at a later date should you choose not to fly.
  • Travel insurance: AFS does not endorse any of these policies but you may want to consider purchasing travel insurance that covers COVID-related issues: Best Pandemic (COVID) Travel Insurance August 2021 – Forbes Advisor.

While the Delta variant is worrisome, the good news is that vaccines are working. While there have been breakthrough cases of COVID in vaccinated individuals, the overwhelming majority of these cases have resulted in asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic manifestations of the disease.

We are still more than two months from the conference and, as we’ve seen in the last 18 months, a lot can change quickly. We remain optimistic that things will be in a better place by the time our conference begins. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated as the situation changes.

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