Covid-19 Health and Safety Policies

SICB is closely following CDC guidelines for COVID safety at large meetings and will adhere to those guidelines or more conservative measures, given that conference attendees come from many home locations. Additional guidance or policies for Arizona and the conference center will also be followed.

SICB is committed to provide covid safety policies as far in advance of the meeting as possible. Policies may be revised to be more strict if that is necessary to follow CDC guidance but decisions will not be reversed to be more lenient. We are closely monitoring news, science, and CDC guidance related to the Omicron variant and will update our policies as needed.

Vaccination Requirement: Vaccines are required for attendance at SICB 2022, with very few allowable exceptions. Anyone granted an exception must submit a negative test taken within 72 hours of the first day of the conference. Please reach out to SICB President Melina Hale (president@sicb.org) to discuss criteria for exceptions or concerns you have about this policy.

Attendees of the in-person conference are required to register their proof of vaccination or approved exception accompanied by a negative COVID test in order to enter the conference. Vaccine/test registration will occur through a third-party company, 42Chat, to protect the privacy of registrants. All registrants will receive a text or email from 42Chat on December 6 (or soon after registration, for those registering after Dec 1) inviting them to submit their proof of vaccination or apply for an exception.

Acceptable vaccinations: Vaccinations approved by the US FDA or WHO are allowed for travel into the US starting in November. SICB will accept any vaccinations on those lists in the registry. Lists and other information on travel to the US can be found here: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/proof-of-vaccination.html.

Masking: Indoor masking is required for all attendees (vaccinated or unvaccinated) at the SICB 2022 conference with a few exceptions. Two KN95 masks will be provided to each SICB attendee, and more will be available if needed. A limited number of medical-grade N95 masks will be available at the registration desk. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer will also be provided at each podium. Exceptions to the universal masking policy include:

  • Vaccinated speakers have the option to lower their masks while presenting if there is at least 10 feet of distance between the speaker and the audience. The front row of seating in each room will be at least 10 feet from the podium.
  • Attendees can momentarily shift their mask to sip a drink.
  • Prolonged unmasking to eat or drink will be allowed only in designated areas, NOT in the meeting rooms or poster sessions. In designated eating and drinking areas, unvaccinated individuals must maintain at least six feet from other attendees while unmasked. There is no distance requirement for vaccinated individuals.

The decision to allow these exceptions to the SICB 2022 universal masking policy was not taken lightly. We are basing this decision primarily on (1) the SICB 2022 vaccine requirement, which ensures that virtually all attendees will be vaccinated, (2) continuing effectiveness of the vaccines and wide availability of boosters (within the US), (3) facility cleaning and airflow standards, (4) CDC guidance allowing vaccinated individuals to remove masks at non-public indoor gatherings (read HERE), and (5) concerns that masked speakers may be harder to understand, particularly for hearing-impaired attendees. We have also considered reports from recent meetings that allowed these masking exceptions, including a regional SICB meeting, and the personal experiences of SICB members whose home institutions allow these types of exceptions during teaching. As far as we are aware, none of these situations have produced COVID issues. SICB is grateful to the SICB members that helped shape this policy by sharing their concerns and insights via our online survey this fall.

Poster sessions: There will be increased spacing between posters with wider rows and greater separation between adjacent posters. Unmasking to eat or drink will not be allowed in poster sessions.

Enforcement of COVID Safety During the Conference: Burk Associates Inc. (BAI), SICB’s society management company, will have staff on the ground during the conference who will address safety issues and inform SICB attendees about our safety policies. We are establishing a call line for attendees to report COVID safety concerns during the meeting. BAI and members of SICB leadership will be available to respond to concerns raised in the conference center. They will also be regularly walking through conference spaces and available in-person. We will provide the call line and other information on contacting/identifying COVID safety leads closer to the time of the meeting.

Mangum award hotel rooms: Mangum awardee hotel room sharing has changed from previous years, decreasing the number of people per room to two (from four) without an increase in price to students. There is greater flexibility for Mangum-supported students to identify their own roommate (in or outside of the Mangum program). Find information about the Mangum program HERE.

Childcare: This year SICB will offer funding to support individual childcare arrangements in Phoenix. The company that has provided childcare services in recent years will provide SICB with a sitter list that attendees can use to find vetted local sitters. There are a number of reasons for this decision, including the unknown timing of vaccinations for children under five and differences in parent requirements for child care during the pandemic. This approach seems like the best option to help support families who are bringing children to the annual conference while also allowing parents and other caregivers to make individual decisions around COVID safety measures for their children. More information on funds available and a process for accessing them will be available soon.

Cancellation policy: Travel planning this year is particularly challenging with unknowns due to COVID. Cancellations with refund of registration for covid-related circumstances are allowed without penalty. Cancellations must be in writing via fax, email or regular mail to the SICB Business Office. Please contact meetings@burkinc.com.

Phoenix information: The information on the meeting microsite will be augmented with details that may be useful to you in relation to COVID and wellness such as clinics and testing locations. With good January weather, we hope there will be a range of outdoor options for dining and socializing offsite. Updated Phoenix-area COVID information can be found HERE.

SICB recognizes that individuals and institutions may have specific COVID safety standards that need to be met to consider attendance of the meeting. Please reach out if you need more information (president@sicb.org).


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