Citing concerns about COVID-19's Omicron variant, the 340B Coalition is considering turning its Jan. 31–Feb. 2 in-person winter conference into a hybrid in-person/virtual event.

Citing Omicron Wave, 340B Coalition Weighs Making Winter Conference a Hybrid Live/Virtual Event

The 340B Coalition said yesterday it is “actively exploring the potential for a hybrid [winter 2022] conference that would allow attendance in-person or virtually for those that cannot attend in-person.”

The coalition, composed of 13 groups that represent 340B covered entities, made the announcement by email and on the conference website. For now, its winter conference remains scheduled for Jan. 31 through Feb. 2, 2022, in San Diego, Calif., as an in-person event.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Dec. 20 it expects “a surge of COVID-19 cases in the coming days to weeks” driven by the Omicron variant, which the CDC says is more easily transmissible but might be less severe than prior variants.

“Projected large surges in cases indicate surges of hospital demand even if severity is reduced, because of the large number of anticipated cases occurring in a short period of time,” CDC said.

The White House, meanwhile, this month expanded health centers’ already large role in COVID-19 response. Health centers have administered nearly 18 million COVID-19 vaccinations since January 2021, with over two in three shots administered to people of color. On Dec. 2, the Biden administration said it would make 50 million free rapid at-home COVID-19 tests available to uninsured individuals through health centers and rural clinics.

The 340B Coalition’s winter and summer meetings were drawing close to 2,000 attendees and exhibitors before the COVID-19 pandemic. Its last in-person event was its February 2020 winter meeting, also in San Diego.

“We are closely tracking the developments in the pandemic and the guidelines set by national, state, and local public health authorities,” Maureen Testoni, president and CEO of hospital group 340B Health, said on the coalition’s behalf. 340B Health plans and stages the coalition’s winter and summer conferences. “In accordance with the state of California, we have already put in place stringent requirements for participation in the conference including the need to be fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID test within 1-2 days of the event depending on type of test, and wearing masks during all indoor settings regardless of vaccine status. “

“As information becomes available, we will continue to assess the plans for the conference and make changes accordingly,” Testoni said. “Certainly, we hope developments will bring us all good news that will enable us to all meet in person, but we will continue to make all decisions based on the science and advice of public health professionals.”

Last week, investment bank J.P. Morgan Chase turned its planned in-person annual biotech conference Jan. 10-13 in San Francisco into a virtual event after backlash from pharmaceutical industry speakers and registrants concerned about attending an in-person event. Another major annual trade show, CES (Consumer Electronics Show), as of yesterday was still scheduled to be held face-to-face in Las Vegas Jan. 5 through 8. CES also offers a digital attendance option.

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