Let’s Talk About That Virus…
I’m still healthy. But the coronavirus has hit me anyway.
I was supposed to be packing right now for a pre-drupa press conference in Heidelberg, Germany, to take place Thursday. I could almost taste that bratwurst.
Then last week I learned the event — which was to have drawn print journalists from around the world — had been cancelled “in view of the continuing spread of the COVID-19 virus.” It will now take the form of a webinar. I’m disappointed, but not surprised.
A similar pre-drupa press event that HP had planned for this week in Israel was also canceled, disappointing some of my colleagues. And on a much larger scale, the FESPA Global Print Expo 2020 and European Sign Expo 2020, scheduled to take place in Madrid, March 24-27, was just postponed. “In light of the recent spread of the virus in specific areas of mainland Europe,” the announcement read, “we have consulted with our stakeholders and have concluded that it is in the best interests of our community to defer the events to a later date.”
Also postponed on Friday was DSCOOP's Edge Orlando 2020 conference, which had been scheduled for March 29-April 1. “Nothing is more important to us than the health of our Dscoop community, and this is not a decision Dscoop has taken lightly,” said Keith Wilmot, CEO of Dscoop.
I’m sure very few of us have managed to skate through the past couple of weeks without some level of added stress over the coronavirus situation. On the one hand, the flu is quite deadly as well, so the hoopla over this new virus can seem extreme. On the other hand, most of us have gotten flu shots, so we’re much more vulnerable to COVID-19, which has so far been more deadly.
For me, I worry not only about my family’s health, and the economic repercussions, but about the impact it may have on industry events. Most of this impact will result from individual and corporate reactions to the threat. Companies may prohibit their employees from traveling, for example. Just this week, that happened to one of the judges for the In-Print contest. I had to quickly find a replacement to help us judge the contest on March 16.
But what about events beyond that? Next up is the Association of College and University Printers (ACUP+) conference, kicking off March 29, in Lincoln, Neb. In an email to sponsors this week, the association stressed that “given the best evidence available from the Centers for Disease Control, ACUP+ is proceeding with business as usual at the ACUP+ 2020 conference. We are in contact with the Embassy Suites Lincoln to stay up to date on developments and advice from local authorities and to prepare the venue for the health and safety of all attendees.” The usual hearty hugs and handshakes may have to be curtailed this year.
My company is hosting both the Inkjet Summit and the new Wide-Format Summit in Austin, Texas, a few weeks later (April 20-22), and so far those events are scheduled to continue as planned. A notice on our sites states that "we’re monitoring the developments of this virus closely, and are taking into consideration any and all recommendations shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Government, and local authorities." The notice lists several safety precautions we’re taking.
Likewise, the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association (IPMA) conference is still set for June 7-11, in Bonita Springs, Fla.
But the event on most of the industry’s mind is drupa, the mega trade show that happens every four years in Düsseldorf, Germany. The countdown on the drupa site is still ticking off the seconds until June 16, but Europe has been canceling trade shows left and right lately. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Organizers in Asia, Europe and North America have canceled or postponed at least 440 trade shows and exhibitions in response to the coronavirus.”
The drupa site now has a safety notice, which says, in part:
For drupa there are no intentions to postpone the trade fair. We will re-evaluate the situation in good time in consultation with health authorities and partners in order to make the appropriate decisions.
As exhibitors and visitors you can expect a high level of hygiene, safety and good medical care at the Düsseldorf trade fair grounds as usual. Messe Düsseldorf is closely monitoring current developments and is in direct contact with the health authorities.
According to the World Health Organization, the Robert Koch Institute and the German authorities, the risk of infection with this new pathogen in Germany is currently moderate. The medical facilities at the Düsseldorf exhibition centre have the latest information at all times and are well prepared.
For now, although the panic may seem surreal to those of us living far from infected places, all we can do is monitor these events, and make the decisions we think are best.
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.