Only days before their annual event, the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) announced they were switching to a virtual and digital format because of the growing coronavirus threat. Instead of attending the Boston event, attendees will now have sessions, presentations, and materials available online. No refunds will be given for the event, and conference officials are working with local hotels regarding any cancellation fees that may be incurred.
“Because of increasing concerns that travel to a large group gathering like CROI is not advisable from a personal and public health perspective, CROI leadership has come to the difficult decision that the 2020 CROI meeting will be virtual,” the group announced in a press release earlier this week.
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, threat to the general public is still relatively low according to public health authorities, both in the U.S. and locally in Massachusetts. However, CROI leadership had increasing concerns about large gatherings of people and the associated travel needs of the attendees. As a result, they came to the difficult decision to go virtual.
All current registrations will be converted to digital with no refunds planned at the time of the announcement. Presentations will be prerecorded while sessions will be webcast live. Materials will be available electronically, and on-demand webcasting will be available the following week.
CROI is working with local area hotels to waive their cancellation fees, or extend the grace period. Most offer free cancellation with 24, 48, or 72-hours notice. The Boston Marriott Hotel Copley Plaza has already waived their cancellation fees for CROI attendees.
The announcement by CROI comes as other companies take similar precautions in response to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Apparel retailer GAP closed its New York office after an employee tested positive for the virus. Amtrak just announced it was cancelling its nonstop New York to Washington D.C., Acela service due to decreased demand. The fear of spreading the virus has forced many companies to consider alternatives to the traditional workplace such as remote offices and work-from-home options.