We made it a point to catch up with Joe Deems, NRRA Executive Director, and Tim Sullivan, Lead Conference Coordinator, to get an update on NRRA’s plans to proceed with its first national conference in two years, set to take place on November 2-4, 2021, in Chicago. The following is what we learned.
Q: With the current upswing of COVID cases across the country, obviously kicked-up by the Delta variant, the first question that comes to mind is – are you still actively planning to go forward with your “In-Person” meeting?
JD: So far, we believe that the answer to this is yes.
Q: Well, according to what we are hearing in the news, aren’t the risks going up every day?
JD: Well, first, the “news” is not science! Based on what we are seeing, the risks in Chicago initially increased but as of early September appear to be declining, which is the primary reason why we are still holding firm in our planning. If you look at all the current data, compared to all the other states in the country, as of September 8, 2021, the state of Illinois ranked about 42nd out of the 50 states with its much lower reporting of new cases per 100,000 tested. Chicago has been on the low side of the numbers compared to the state as a whole. That also means that there are 41 states with higher, and in some instances, much higher numbers of new cases reported. Chicago is not only lower in new cases reported, but also in hospitalizations and even lower in deaths per 100K. We have been watching the trends and statistical data, and not just talking with travel and hospitality companies. Tim here can tell you more.
TS: I think that some of the most valuable data can be found in the COVID-19 Dashboard put out by the Chicago Board of Public Health (CBPH). This can be found at https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/sites/covid-19/home/covid-dashboard.html. In there you will see comprehensive data, updated in real time, and which gives us some tangible comfort as we continue with our planning for the event.
Q: But you would agree that there are still risks?
TS: Yes, there are risks. Having been in the insurance industry for decades, we are in the business of assessing risks. COVID can find you almost anywhere in your daily life, including by contact with a person who is asymptomatic and doesn’t know they carry the disease. So, no matter where you are, you mitigate your risks by doing your best to protect yourself. We will, naturally, have in place many of the normal precautionary measures you see associated with travel and events in public places, including indoor meeting spaces. For example, expect to demonstrate vaccination or a negative COVID test and be prepared to wear a mask indoors at all times, which is now required by the City of Chicago. We’d like to find a sponsor for masks with the NRRA logo. The current mandates from the City of Chicago are on the web site above. We recommend attendees keep an eye on the site as the Conference date gets closer for more current information. And while it seems unlikely right now, these requirements could all be relaxed if the infection rate decreases.
Q: Well, I’ve looked at the data on this link and can see how the hotels are now still booking up for events and guests. Do you have a Plan “B?”
JD: We have been shut down before and have emerged just fine, – – a little poorer, but just fine. If you have been watching the “in-person” events which have gone forward this summer, they have experienced a record turn-out of attendees. It is noted that these events did admittedly take place before we could see the effects of the Delta variant. That is consistent with our data, nevertheless, where everyone we have spoken with has begged for an “in-person” event.
TS: NRRA has flexibly navigated this pandemic and still has maintained its membership and sponsors. If we encounter a worst-case scenario, I’m confident that the board will react responsibly on behalf of our members and loyal attendees, all of whom look forward to seeing each other in person again.
Enough said, but do stay tuned for our next interview on that part of our theme, entitled, …”In Depth…”
NOTE that hotel reservations can be cancelled with no penalty up to 48 hours before check-in. We plan to have appropriate safety precautions in place, and continue to optimistically follow Chicago’s currently favorable statistics showing a better than average increase and growth of travel and meeting accommodations due to decreasing incidents of COVID outbreaks and sickness.
*Our apologies to those of you who are receiving this a second time, as our first mailing did not get out to everyone.
For more information and to register, click here.