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RSA2020 and COVID-19 Update March 11

Dear Colleagues,

As I communicated earlier, we, as all RSA20 participants, are aware of being in the midst of an expanding global COVID-19 outbreak and its spread within the US. The RSA Officers have been closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and are taking into full consideration the geographic extent of the outbreaks as we adjust RSA plans to ensure the safety of our attendees.  We are paying particular attention to the Portland area.  Currently, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html) and World Health Organization recommendations (https://www.who.int/ith/2019-nCoV_advice_for_international_traffic-rev/en/) do not limit travel internally within the US.  As of March 11, 2020, the State of Oregon has reported 15 cases that tested positive (https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/DISEASESCONDITIONS/DISEASESAZ/Pages/emerging-respiratory-infections.aspx), with one case reported in Multnomah county (where Portland is located), but had no advisory against meetings such as ours.

We are in the unenviable position of having to make decisions about the status of RSA20 when information about the epidemic remains fluid. Our paramount concern is the health and safety of our members and attendees. We know the loyalty of our members to RSA and their incredibly strong endorsement of our biennial conference as among the best in their professional experience.  So, we know that you are making painful personal choices about whether or not to attend.  And we are making incredibly difficult decisions about whether to hold the conference as planned, whether it might take a modified form, or whether we will have to cancel. None of us has any idea what the situation will be 10 weeks from now nor the health risks.  At this time, RSA20 is scheduled to take place as planned May 21-24, 2020 at the Downtown Portland Hilton in Portland, Oregon. As the situation progresses, we will share the best information we have at our disposal, post updates about changes or contingency plans on this website, via our Twitter and Facebook feeds, and in emails to registered attendees, presenting authors, and members.

Many of you have asked about refunds. We are aware of your constraints, that some of your institutions have installed a travel ban and will not reimburse you for airline tickets, and that major airlines are offering waivers for rebooking tickets, if requests are made by March 31.  We have a number of contractual obligations to the hosting venue that we must fulfill.  We are exploring ways to alter them.  We want to be as supportive as we can of your personal choices and as we a get a clearer picture on what RSA20 will finally look like, address the refund issue in that context. At this time, our refund policies are unchanged; as circumstances change, we will respond accordingly.  Should we have to cancel or substantially alter the meeting, it may take some time to determine the level of refund that can be provided.

We remain hopeful that our event will come off as planned, look forward to seeing you in Portland, and are eager to learn of your work addressing our conference theme of “hospitality.”  Your work is what makes the RSA biennial conference an exciting intellectual and communal experience. Between now and then, we urge all to be especially attentive to matters of personal care that can mitigate the spread of infectious disease and ensure your own health, and to consult the CDC’s guidance, including its frequently asked questions related to COVID-19, its prevention guidance, and its updated travel notices.

Sincerely,

Michelle Ballif
RSA President-Elect

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