Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

I’ve canceled my appearance at MidSouthCon

I’ve waited until the convention was able to update its site and break the news to share this:

It is with deep regret that I have canceled my appearance as the Author Guest of Honor for this year’s MidSouthCon, because of the impossibility of verifying the vaccination/negative test status of attendees, staff, guests, and volunteers as a condition of attendance.

This would have been my very first time as an Author Guest of Honor at any con, and this invitation meant a great deal to me. However, protecting my health and that of my family against unnecessary risks during a pandemic, especially in the face of an extremely contagious COVID variant such as omicron, must take a higher priority.

I will be reimbursing MidSouthCon for any and all out-of-pocket costs they have incurred on my behalf.

At the time MidSouthCon and I made our plans, we had no idea the pandemic was coming. We certainly could not have known in 2019 that the Tennessee state government would pass a law that actually makes it harder to keep people safe from infection.

That fact is the key difference between this cancellation and the one I announced last week regarding my planned appearance at Farpoint Convention. The state of Maryland has no law at this time that prevents events and venues from requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of entry and/or service. The state of Tennessee, unfortunately, does. Whereas Farpoint could have chosen to apply a stronger standard for the protection of its guests, et al., but chose not to, the concom of MidSouthCon had no such option.

I have already done so privately, but I would like to publicly thank the entire team at MidSouthCon for being so understanding about this matter. They have been wonderful hosts through this entire long process, which began when my original appearance in 2020 had to be postponed because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With regard to this latest decision, they invited me to air my concerns, they took my input very seriously, and did their best to find a solution. Unfortunately, their hands were tied by Tennessee state law.

If blame is to lie anywhere in this unfortunate mess, I will lay it at the feet of the Tennessee state legislature and governor, who wrote and enacted this law that only makes it harder to keep people safe from infection.

Again, I offer my apology for this late cancellation to all the fans who were hoping to meet me at MidSouthCon for conversation, panels, and/or autographs, but under the current circumstances I must put my health and that of my family above all other concerns. Autographed book plates will be available at the convention, and copies of my books will be sold at the table of fellow Star Trek author John Jackson Miller, in the vendors’ area.

At this time, the only upcoming convention appearance on my schedule is Shore Leave, scheduled for July 15–17, 2022. As of this writing, Shore Leave has a posted COVID-19 policy that will require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry/service to the convention’s designated areas and functions. As long as that policy remains in effect, I will look forward to attending Shore Leave this summer.

To preempt further confusion, I have updated my website’s Contact page with a statement making clear that I will not participate in person at any event held in a state (which currently includes Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alaska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama, and Utah) that legally bars venues and events from requesting proof of vaccination as a condition of entry and service.

On that note, I send my best wishes to one and all: stay warm this winter, and stay healthy.

Why I’ve withdrawn from Farpoint Con 2022

This is an open message to my friends and colleagues who plan on attending Farpoint Convention in Hunt Valley, Md., next month (Feb. 25-27).

Though I have been looking forward for some time to seeing you all there, I regret that it currently appears I will not be attending the con.

I was recently made aware that Farpoint’s concom has decided not to require guests, staff, volunteers, or attendees to provide proof of vaccination or a recent (< 72 hours) negative result on a reliable COVID-19 test, per its online statement:

Farpoint 2022 COVID-19 Guidance

On Tuesday, January 11, I emailed Farpoint via the programming chair, Cindy Woods, to express my concerns and reservations concerning this lax approach to health and safety. My message read, in part:

“Per item 2, I am seriously troubled by the concom’s decision to not require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for attendees, guests, and staff.

“The proffered explanation that this decision was made out of concern about the privacy of attendees’ private health information rings hollow. Many other small, fan-run and volunteer-supported conventions are managing to check vaccination and test status for their attendees without it being an undue burden on them or an imposition on their attendees and guests.

“I would strongly urge the Farpoint team to reconsider this section of its COVID policy immediately, and to plan for verification of attendees’ vaccination statuses and/or recent negative test results.”

Cindy replied that the Farpoint committee intended to discuss the matter again during its next meeting, scheduled for the weekend of January 15-16, and that she would share with them my concerns and inform me of their conclusions.

Their response and final decision was, to be blunt, disappointing. On behalf of the Farpoint concom, Cindy wrote back to me this past Monday, January 17, 2022, with this reply:

“We value your opinion on this issue, and appreciate your candor. Unfortunately, it’s a tough decision to make. With breakthrough infections increasing even among vaccinated persons in the wake of the Delta and Omicron variants, we do not want to send the message to attendees that an all-vaccinated con will be free of Covid. Because the reality is that cannot be guaranteed, especially in a facility that is not requiring vaccinations for guests not attending the convention. Marriott’s policy makes it impossible to establish a safe bubble.

“If people are going to choose to accept the risk of attending a public event—and it is a risk—we want them to understand that risk, and we want them to follow the safety protocols recommended by Maryland and the CDC that stand the best chance of keeping them infection-free: increased sanitation, social distancing and masking. We are implementing these recommendations.”

To say I found this reply discouraging would be an understatement.

In reply to their assertion about what message such a policy would send, I shared my opinion that the message conveyed by a strong vaccination/test policy is “We are doing everything reasonably possible to provide the lowest-risk environment we can for our guests and attendees, as well as the general public.”

Regarding their excuse that because the hotel is not enforcing such a policy on non-convention guests at the hotel that weekend, it is not possible to create a “safe bubble,” I responded,

“You’ve applied the wrong standard. You’ve let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

“For starters, hotel guests who are not con attendees are not likely to have any significant prolonged contact with con attendees. The most likely places of overlap between these two groups, based on historical patterns, is the front lobby and the lounge area. Both of those spaces are relatively open and well ventilated; the former has a high ceiling, and the latter has good spacing on its seating options.

“Those are not high-risk areas, and the con should not be concerned about them.

“The highest-risk areas are those that, for the weekend, WILL be under the con’s exclusive control: the Tack rooms, the Salons, and the Hunt-Valley Ballroom. The Tack rooms and Salons are small enclosed spaces that, if attended by an individual who happens to be contagious, could turn into petri dishes.

“Likewise, because of the sheer crowd density in the Hunt-Valley Ballroom for headliner events, even a single contagious person in that space risks turning it into a superspreader venue.

“Allowing access by unvaccinated and untested individuals sharply increases those risks.”

I offered, as a further criticism of their policy, my observation that it places “all responsibility on the guests and attendees, which is not only unfair, it’s irresponsible, especially considering the number of children who attend the con.

“It is appropriate to ask all attendees to observe those practices for communal safety while in the convention and public areas of the hotel,” I continued, “but the con has a responsibility to do what the attendees cannot, either individually or collectively: screen out the highest-risk persons for the good of the community as a whole.”

The concom’s decision not to revise its policy for a safer one, regardless of their rationale, is one that I consider to be medically unsound. I think it creates an unnecessary degree of risk by omission of action.

Consequently, I have informed Farpoint that, barring an official revision of its COVID-19 safety protocols to include a requirement for all staff, volunteers, guests, and attendees to be either fully vaccinated (2x + booster) or to present a negative COVID test processed in the 72 hours preceding the start of the convention, I will not be attending Farpoint 2022.

I offer this information not to sway anyone else’s decision, but to make sure that my friends and colleagues who choose to be part of this year’s Farpoint Convention clearly understand all of the risks that will be involved. Each of us needs to make our own informed decision whether the increased level of risk that will be present at Farpoint Convention is merited and acceptable.

For those who choose to attend in spite of this lax admission screening, I wish you a happy and healthy convention weekend — but if you choose to attend Farpoint (or any other large event that features gatherings in small windowless rooms, and isn’t verifying vaccination or negative-test results), please take all possible precautions.

The Shadow Commission delayed until August 11

For those who have pre-ordered The Shadow Commission, my upcoming third Dark Arts novel from Tor Books, be informed that due to the effects of the ongoing pandemic on the publishing industry and related businesses, the release date of my book (and many others) has been delayed.

Originally scheduled to publish on June 9, 2020, The Shadow Commission is now scheduled to debut on August 11, 2020.

I know it’s a bummer, but there’s really nothing that can be done about it. Many publishers, including Tor’s corporate parent company, Macmillan, are laying off employees and reducing the salaries of those who remain. Printers are running out of paper to print books, because the supply lines for their just-in-time inventory model have been disrupted. There are fewer truckers to cart books from printers to warehouses, and from warehouses to retailers. And the brick-and-mortar retailers are mostly closed, and the biggest online retailer isn’t accepting books right now.

Kind of a perfect storm of suck, really.

At any rate, please be patient. Here’s hoping that when the book arrives at last, you’ll all agree it was worth the wait.

 

#SFWApro