The “risk professionals” at a recent SF security conference may not have factored in the risk of a largely maskless event at the height of an Omicron surge, as hundreds of attendees say they caught the virus while networking to battle computer viruses.
If you look at the social media pictures posted online of the RSA Conference that came to San Francisco in the first week of June, you’ll see a combination of vast-majority maskless crowds indoors at Moscone Center, and images of people’s positive COVID-19 tests posted in the days afterwards. Hmmm, perhaps these two things are related? That seems to be the takeaway from the the tech media sector, as PC Magazine declared the conference was a “hotbed for COVID-19,” and The Register reports RSA was “branded a ‘super spreader event’” by attendees in the days following the conference.
The event did require proof of vaccination, but only enforced a two-shot regimen, not boosters, and masking was merely “encouraged.” PC Magazine was present for the proceedings, and describes the scene with: “We attended and noticed a startling lack of mask-wearing and little social distancing. At times, dozens or even hundreds of people were clustered together on the show floor, in conference halls, and around the bathrooms.”
If you attended RSA 2022, did you get COVID? Please do not answer if you did not attend. Please RT to help sample size
— Ray [REDACTED] (@RayRedacted) June 15, 2022
Some fellow posted the Twitter poll above, which is highly unscientific, but has a sample size of well over 1,000 respondents. That poll found more than 22% saying “I got COVID at RSA,” and gaming that out across a reported attendance of 26,000, you’d be looking at nearly 6,000 people getting COVID-19.
The conference acknowledged the situation in a statement last week, but insisted they would not track cases. “RSA Conference 2022 has been made aware that some attendees have tested positive for COVID-19. We are, however, not collecting test results post Conference,” organizers said in a statement. “To the extent that they are comfortable, we do encourage people who have since tested positive to reach out to those they were in close contact with during the Conference.”
I’m consistently astonished at how little these large events have been doing to encourage booster shots or masking. It’s totally free to do a social media post encouraging people to get a booster shot, or to list where to get booster shots in advance of the event. And heck, you can even require booster shots, which Warriors games have been doing for months. Maybe there’s a concern that requiring boosters might cut into attendance, but even just encouraging boosters could make a positive impact, with fewer positive cases.
Image: @Cyderes via Twitter