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With the Spring Section Meetings approaching and the 2020 Annual Meeting Call for Papers closing on April 3, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is weighing heavily on all of our minds. We write to emphasize that your health and safety are our foremost priorities.
We want to let you know of two Section meetings that have changed their plans because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and also to share with you the decision of the Executive Board to continue to plan for the AAA Annual Meeting in St. Louis (November 18-22), unless compelling reasons emerge to change our plans — for example, an injunction from the city, state, or federal government to cancel large gatherings. Although the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to get worse in the next few weeks, we are not expecting that it will still be an issue by the time of the Annual Meetings. However, we are planning for all contingencies.
The two Section meetings that have changed their plans to date include: (1) the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, which has postponed its meeting in Boulder, CO, originally scheduled for early April, to September 23-27; and (2) the joint meeting of the American Ethnological Society / Association for Political and Legal Anthropology, which has cancelled its meeting in Austin, TX. It had been scheduled for March 26-28.
As of right now, we plan to hold the Annual Meeting as scheduled, and we encourage you to continue to organize panels, presentations and other special events around the theme, Truth and Responsibility. At the same time, AAA is taking several steps to support your individual choice regarding attendance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not recommending the cancellation of public events in the United States. If you register now and decide later not to attend due to COVID-19 concerns, we will refund your conference registration in full. Due to the extraordinary circumstances, we will not charge the usual administrative fee on refunds.
We have seen in recent days that most travel industry organizations – airlines and hotels in particular – are greatly increasing their flexibility to accommodate changes in travel plans. We expect this to continue as long as the uncertain circumstances make it difficult to plan.
We are investigating ways in which we can upgrade the bandwidth in the conference meeting rooms to better accommodate virtual participation. We had already planned on expanding the virtual attendance offerings from last year, but this year’s extraordinary circumstances will prompt us to consider such possibilities as allowing a mix of live presentations and remote presentations and presentations that are pre-recorded on video and presented in St. Louis with tech support on hand.
AAA will continue to closely monitor local, national, and international developments while collaborating with the local public health authorities. We strongly encourage all travelers to stay vigilant and follow the travel recommendations from the CDC. If the situation changes, and if there is a call or mandate for large groups to cancel their events, we will of course comply.
We will keep you updated and hope to see you in St. Louis.
With deep appreciation,
Akhil Gupta, AAA president
Ed Liebow, AAA executive director
On behalf of the AAA Executive Board, Executive Program Committee, Finance Committee, Members Programmatic Advisory and Advocacy Committee, and Staff