COVID-19 travel update: ASCRS 2020 cancelled

March 17, 2020
David Hutton

The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) has cancelled its annual meeting, scheduled for May 15-19 in Boston. 

The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) has cancelled its annual meeting, scheduled for May 15-19 in Boston.

The news comes amid myriad postponements and cancellations nationwide to stop the spread of coronavirus, a highly contagious virus can cause a severe respiratory disease known as COVID-19.

The organization announced it decided to cancel the meeting “in the interest of public safety, after monitoring daily recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), and the City of Boston.”

In its statement, ASCRS said it would explore the possibility of rescheduling the meeting and will continue to offer online resources to support ophthalmologists’ ongoing clinical and networking needs.

“We appreciate your ongoing patience as we continue to work through reconciling registration fees and hotel cancellations,” the statement said. “No action is needed on your part at this time. We will update you by the end of the week.”

According to ASCRS, it has worked closely with the Boston Convention Exposition Center to navigate this very challenging and dynamic situation.

“During this entire process there has never been an option that was an ideal solution, but we ultimately feel this is the correct decision and in the best interest of our members,” the statement continued.

ARVO cancelled

Last week, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) cancelled its annual meeting, to have taken place May 1-7 in Baltimore.

In a statement posted to the ARVO 2020 website, the organization said “the health, safety and well-being of the ARVO global community is our highest priority.”

Leadership also noted the lost opportunity to present the latest research, and announced it would offer additional communication in the coming weeks that will provide alternative presentation options as we continue to work through those details. In cancelling the event now, ARVO said it wanted to provide all attendees with ample time to manage air travel and hotel reservations.

“We urge those who were planning to attend the annual meeting to expedite flight cancellations,” the statement said. “Attendees who booked through ARVO housing do not need to do anything; reservations will be cancelled automatically. Individuals who booked reservations on their own should cancel them immediately.”

ARVO also will fully refund annual meeting registration fees for individuals that do not select an alternative presentation option when that information is released in the next two weeks.

Vision Expo consolidates

Last week, it was announced that Vision Expo East, scheduled to be held March 26-29, will be consolidated with Vision Expo West in Las Vegas, Sept. 23-26.

Ashley Mills, CEO of The Vision Council, organizers of the event, said it was a difficult decision for the organization.

"Ultimately The Vision Council’s Board of Directors believes the safety and well-being of our members, exhibitors, attendees and staff must come first," she said. "Furthermore, we want to be respectful to the exhibitors and attendees who would not be able to attend Vision Expo East due to travel restrictions.”

Yancy Weinrich, COO of Reed Exhibitions, added that “Vision Expo East is a pivotal event that brings together a diverse industry to celebrate advances in eyewear, eyecare, technology and fashion.

"Over the past year, our Vision Expo staff and the entire show community worked tirelessly to plan a completely reimagined show that we were looking forward to unveiling in March. This will now take place September 23-26th in Las Vegas and we’re excited for the show at that date.”

Meeting update

In the United States, there are several high-profile shows this year, including the American Society of Retina Specialists Annual Meeting, July 24-28 in Seattle; and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) Annual Meeting, Nov. 14-17 in Las Vegas.

Regarding its annual meeting in Seattle, in a statement, ASRS officials said "leadership is actively monitoring developments concerning COVID-19 and staying abreast of updates from health organizations responsible for tracking and responding to the virus, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Washington State Department of Health, and King County Public Health. In addition, we are closely monitoring all travel alerts issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. As our meeting approaches, we will rely on these authorities to provide us guidance and take appropriate steps, if necessary, to ensure the safety of our participants."

In the meantime, ASRS officials are encouraging members to monitor the CDC website for additional information and recommendations for protecting themselves from an infection.

In a statement, AAO said, “it is monitoring the situation and advice from health authorities, and keeping our members and employees informed. The Academy meeting (AAO) is still nine months away and it is too soon to know what impact it will have on attendance.”

Elective surgeries

Federal and industry authorities are urging doctors and surgeons to avoid performing elective surgeries while the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is going on.

Deborah Birx, MD, who is coordinating the Trump administrations response to the pandemic, announced during a White House press conference that doctors and dentists should avoid performing elective surgeries during the pandemic to avoid using medical supplies.

“Things that don’t need to be done over the next two weeks don’t get it done,” Birx said. “If you’re a person with an elective surgery, don’t go into a hospital right now.”

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