As more cases of coronavirus infections have been identified and reported around the world, the organizers of conventions expected to draw massive crowds—like Google I/O and Mobile World Congress—have begun canceling the events in order avoid them becoming hotbeds for viral transmission. While the upcoming Emerald City Comic Con hasn’t announced the same as of yet, we’re starting to see publishers and individuals take action.
Yesterday, the King County health department confirmed the ninth Coronavirus-related death in the U.S. (all of which have been identified in Washington state), news that prompted many to question the fate of ECCC, the convention set to take place in Seattle from March 12-15. In response to the news, Reed Exhibitions, the owner and organizer of ECCC put out a public statement explaining that the while con is still planned to take place, all congoers are strongly encouraged to follow the CDC’s common-sense public health recommendations like washing their hands and covering their mouths when coughing and sneezing. (Of note, the Game Developers Conference postponed its annual event until the summer.)
“We are following local, state and federal public health advice closely,” the statement read. “We have also contacted our venue partners and are coordinating closely with them to ensure that they are acting in accordance with the advice of public health authorities and that information is available to our customers about the precautions being taken by the venue related to the COVID-19 virus.”
But soon after Reed’s statement, major publishers like DC Entertainment, Dark Horse Comics, and Penguin Random House all announced their intentions to pull out of ECCC full stop as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of their employees. Before long, high profile creators who’d previously planned to attend ECCC voiced concerns and took to social media to share their intentions to skip the convention as well.
Currently, Emerald City Comic Con is still meant to begin as planned on Thursday of next week. We’ve reached out to Reed Exhibitions as to whether things have changed in the wake of the most recent wave of dropouts, but the company did not get back to us at the time of publishing.
Because the con is still meant to go on, many of the exhibitors and artists who’ve paid for their spaces both in artist alley and on the show floor have been put in a tough position, because while they’re free not to attend ECCC, Reed Exhibitions isn’t offering refunds. The more and more people and companies pull out of a con like ECCC, the more it becomes likely that attendance overall drops, meaning that creators who end up deciding to go could (and likely will) have a markedly more difficult time turning any sort of profit at their tables.
Perhaps even more concerning is the fact currently, there aren’t really any effective protocols in place to properly deal with a coronavirus outbreak here in the U.S., and the season for even larger comics conventions is almost upon us. As the virus continues to spread, more people are going to have to ask themselves whether it’s advisable or even worth it to attend functions where tens of thousands of people are going to be packed into confined spaces for hours on end.
We’ll bring you more on this situation as we know it.
Update 3:30 p.m. EST: Following the news about more people deciding to forego Emerald City Comic Con, Reed Exhibitions released a statement this afternoon announcing its plan to offer refunds to any member of the public for the price of their tickets.
“Knowing that no two fans are alike, we have decided to make an exception to our no refunds ticket policy for our fans who are unable or uncomfortable aמּending Emerald City Comic Con in light of current events,” the statement reads.” We here at Reedpop remain dedicated to running Emerald City Comic Con but understand that not everyone will be comfortable with that decision; if you wish to forgo aמּending this year’s edition of Emerald City Comic Con, we absolutely respect your wishes and will refund your ticket purchase (details on just how to do this will be on our website).”
In response to questions as to whether exhibitors will also be offered refunds for the cash they put down for spots at the convention, the ECCC Twitter account repeatedly stated that organizers are still determining what steps to take next before further announcements are made later this week.
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