Officials with HIMSS 20, which is set to begin on March 9, is watching the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) virus closely.
Roughly 50,000 attendees from around the world are expecting to come to Orlando, Fla., the week of March 9 to discuss healthcare technology.
But so far, the talk of the conference has been focused on the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and what the conference is doing about it.
To complicate matters, President Donald Trump is expected to speak to the conference on Monday afternoon.
HIMSS has been providing regular updates to their pre-conference plans, and asking attendees to monitor CDC updates. HIMSS has also assembled a team of medical experts to advise them on how best to handle the conference given the unique public health situation unfolding across the world.
Below is the latest update from HIMSS officials. Medical Economics will keep our audience up-to-date on the coronavirus and plans for HIMSS 20.
HIMSS Update on the Coronavirus, March 03, 2020
Over the last week, COVID-19 Coronavirus has become a global topic of concern. Gov. Ron DeSantis directed State Health Officer and Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees to declare a public health emergency in Florida on March 1, 2020.
What does this mean?
Under Florida law, public health emergencies can be declared when there are threats that could result in substantial harm to public health. Such threats can include infectious diseases and even natural disasters. The declarations help free up government resources to focus on responding to the health situation. At this time, Florida remains open for business with careful monitoring of the situation. As of March 2, Orlando resorts and parks remain open and operational.
Our top priority remains the health and safety of all participants at HIMSS20, including attendees, exhibitors, market suppliers, staff, industry partners, and others involved in the HIMSS Global Health Conference and Exhibition.
Given the dynamic nature of this situation, HIMSS has assembled an external panel of medical professionals to further advise our evidence-based decision-making and review our procedures. While the risk remains low at this time, we cannot ensure a virus-free environment and have instituted the measures outlined below.
A Summary of our Current Crisis Preparedness Plan
Traveling to Florida
At this time, HIMSS is accommodating cancellations from attendees traveling from countries designated as a Level 3 or 4 alert by the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Updates and impacted countries can be found on the CDC's Travel Health Notices page.
Attendees should not travel to HIMSS20 if they are feeling unwell. Attendees should monitor the CDC travel guidelines prior to their departure.
Orlando Airport (MCO) is complying with the travel restrictions signed by the U.S. Government on January 31, 2020, which bars entry to the U.S. of most foreign nationals who traveled to China within the 14 days immediately prior to arrival in the United States.
HIMSS is providing guidelines and updates to conference attendee hotels on healthy procedures and tips. All guests checking in will receive printed copies of safety measures.
On-site Preparedness Plan
While the risk remains low at this time, we cannot ensure a virus-free environment. HIMSS20 will be a handshake-free meeting. We recommend the HIMSS elbow tap.We are working with Orlando Health and Dr. Phillips Hospital (closest to convention center) to provide extra medical support as needed on site.Screening protocols for EMTs and Nurses on siteTelehealth access to ER physicians to host virtual visits as necessaryThere will be three medical offices on site at the Orange County Convention Center. One of the medical offices will be dedicated to addressing both flu and coronavirus symptoms and will be staffed by a trained medical professional with direct access to the Florida Department of Health and an Epidemiologist.HIMSS and the Orange County Convention Center will consult health teams at Orlando Health when necessary.Should screening reveal an elevated risk for an attendee, the person will be isolated immediately to prevent exposure to conference participants.Further, the Emergency Department teams at Orlando Health Centers will be consulted to ensure the risk to conference attendees is proactively managed to ensure the safety of all conference participants.
Orange County Convention Center has a disinfectant procedure in place for nightly and day cleanings during move-in and throughout conference, which adhere to the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) guidance.
There will be an increased number of hand sanitation sites available in the Orange County Convention Center and surrounding HIMSS20 venues, providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer for all attendees and staff.
Disposable, disinfectant wipes will be provided so commonly used surfaces (e.g. doorknobs, keyboards, presentation materials, desk surfaces, etc.) can be routinely sanitized.
HIMSS staff is meeting on a regular basis with key conference stakeholders, including Orange County, the Orange County Convention Center and the Florida Department of Health agencies to evaluate any risk in the host city.
HIMSS is also actively monitoring CDC and WHO updates for further information.