Updated: Sep 15, 2022
Pandemic fatigue is getting even worse. At the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) meeting in New Orleans in May, reports have surfaced that potentially hundreds of cases may have been transmitted to participants.
The society had 3000 attendees at this meeting. The organizers required vaccination status for in-person attendance but did not verify this status. They did not ask anyone to produce the vaccination at the meeting or after-hours events. Boosters were not required. Masks were not required. No off-site event had any regulations.
The organizers ignored the local infection rates. At the time, Louisiana had a 50% vaccination rate and COVID cases were rising. The large event had many events where participants interacted with the local populations even before smaller gatherings and late-night socialization.
Emergency Medicine physicians are among the most educated physicians about COVID and the pandemic. They are the ones who have the most exposure to patients and especially vulnerable patients. This society is the academic arm of these physicians and has some of the best and brightest ER doctors. For them not to take this as seriously as they should and create a potential superspreader event is alarming on many levels.
One month later, The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) had similarly unenforced rules. Now, two months after these conferences, COVID case rates, and deaths are still going up.
These events did not cause the pandemic to persist by themselves. However, they show a disturbing trend where even educated individuals can have subpar safety measures and cause direct harm to themselves, their reputations, contacts, and families.