Monday, January 3, 2022
Dear SSWR members and conference registrants,
I write to confirm that the SSWR 2022 Annual Conference is planned to be held in person January 13-16, 2022, at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC. Given the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, we have heard from many of you questioning why we continue to plan for the in-person conference and why we are not switching to an all virtual or hybrid conference.
The health and safety of all participants are top priorities as we plan for the conference. We are adhering to Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser’s COVID-19 Health Guidances and Executive Orders for indoor mask requirements (2021-147) and vaccination requirements (2021-148) and we will continue to monitor the CDC’s and Washington, DC’s guidelines and requirements.
All participants will be required to wear masks. We will provide several thousand “blue, medical masks” with a bacterial filtration efficiency of greater than or equal to 95%. These will be available to all participants in addition to whatever type of mask they choose to wear.
Using the CLEAR app system, we are requiring that all attendees show proof of vaccination or show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hrs. Attendees who prefer not to use the CLEAR app may present their proof of vaccination or test results to the health monitor. Health monitors will be staffing the check-in points to access the SSWR conference space and will also be circulating within the SSWR conference space.
In addition to confirming our capacity to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, the Board had to consider our fiduciary responsibilities and technical and logistical factors when we planned the in-person conference.
We have contractual commitments with Marriott and to cancel the contract would have a significant impact on the organization’s financial status. And while we may lose income on the overall conference it will be less than the cost to cancel the hotel contract. As you know, SSWR is a relatively small professional membership society and unlike larger professional societies or universities, SSWR doesn’t have the technical or staff infrastructure to switch to an all virtual or interactive hybrid conference. To outsource these at this time is not feasible.
We may now all be adept at teaching, learning, and meeting through Zoom or Zoom- like meetings. But, the complexity of the conference scheduling, across multiple time zones, of having some people present in person and some present virtually, is another reason we are unable to switch to an all virtual or hybrid conference.
We have provided flex options for posters and oral papers to be presented as “eposters” in the virtual “poster gallery.” We will also be live-streaming our opening plenary and presidential plenary sessions and invited symposia, the Aaron Rosen Lecture, and the Social Policy Forum. (Please see the online program book.)
We are taking every precaution for our attendees while meeting our fiduciary responsibilities to our members. Your health and well-being are important to us. Of course, we encourage you to make your decision to attend the conference in person or not, knowing the safety protocols we have put in place. For those of you who decide to attend the conference in person we look forward to seeing you.
Luis H. Zayas, PhD