COVID-19 update: ARVO 2020 cancelled

March 12, 2020

With the cloud of COVID-19 looming large, the ARVO 2020 Annual Meeting has been cancelled, according to the organization.

With a number of annual meetings that often attract a global audience, and organizations are taking a cautious approach with the cloud of COVID-19 looming, and several organizations have cancelled planned events.

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology has cancelled ARVO 2020, to have taken place May 1-7 in Baltimore, has been cancelled. 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.”

“Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), yesterday’s announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring a pandemic, numerous university and institutional travel restrictions and ever-increasing numbers of confirmed cases all provide a clear need to take this action,” ARVO leaders said in the statement.

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.

Other cancellations

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.”

Conference lineup

The European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ESCRS) held its winter annual meeting Feb. 21-24 in Morocco. It monitored the situation in the days and weeks leading up to the event to ensure the health and safety of its delegates.

The ESCRS also offered some precautions recommended by the WHO:

  • Do not travel if you have a fever and cough

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with water and soap

  • When sneezing or coughing, cover mouth and nose with a tissue (not your hands!) or sneeze or cough in the crook of your arm; discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

  • Avoid direct contact with sick people

  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

In the United States, there are several high-profile shows this year, including the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators Annual Meeting, May 15-19 in Boston; 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.”