Paul A. Volberding
Carlos del Rio
Two days before the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections was scheduled to start in Boston, the meeting’s leadership announced “the difficult decision” that the meeting will be held virtually. It runs from March 8 to 11.
“As the news changed literally by the hour, CROI leaders continued a respectful discussion about the best course to follow,” Infectious Disease News Chief Medical Editor Paul A. Volberding, MD, told Healio. “In the end, they decided to change from an in-person to a virtual conference, taking advantage of the efforts to present important new science while responding to concerns about further coronavirus transmission or the possibility of a quarantine of attendees, many of whom are needed back in their workplaces as the COVID-19 outbreak grows.”
In the announcement from the conference leadership, they state: “Many infectious disease physicians are urgently needed to care for patients with COVID-19 in their own institutions.” They also point to the travel restrictions put in place by various countries, agencies and institutions and concerns that large group gatherings – such as the meeting – are not advisable from a personal and public health standpoint.
Organizers encouraged those registered for the conference not to travel to Boston and to cancel any hotel reservations immediately to avoid potential penalties. They also stated that individuals who have already begun traveling, or are in Boston already, begin making arrangements to return home.
“Some may say it was too late, but – during an epidemic – you wish you knew today what you will learn tomorrow,” Carlos del Rio, MD, FIDSA, executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine, told Healio. “An epidemic requires flexibility and adaptability. This is not the first, nor the last, tough decision that will be made in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Prerecorded presentations will be available on CROI’s website throughout the meeting, according to the statement on the conference’s website. Access to conference materials and webcasts will be emailed to registrants by 7 AM Eastern time on Sunday, March 8. Infectious Disease News will continue with its plan to cover the meeting.
“The leadership of CROI 2020 made the right decision to reformat the meeting to be virtual this year,” Melanie Thompson, MD, past chair of the HIV Medicine Association and principal investigator at the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta, told Healio. “CROI is an incredible opportunity to network with colleagues and many important studies have been planned in the halls of the convention. It’s good that the science will go on, even if the hallway brainstorming will not.”
“This is a novel and important direction for the organizers to take and one that could well be a responsible direction for other conferences, too, at least until we learn more about the transmission and health consequences of the new virus,” Volberding added. “We all look forward to getting [up] to speed on our electronic connections from around the world to hear the latest on new directions in HIV research.”
To see the latest breaking news, video interviews and presentation coverage from the conference visit Healio.com/ID. – by Eamon Dreisbach
Disclosures: Del Rio, Thompson and Volberding report no relevant financial disclosures.