Below is the full statement taken directly from the AWP website. For all #AWP20 updates, go to: https://www.awpwriter.org/magazine_media/writers_news_view/4683
March 2, 2020
9:05 pm CST
Dear AWP Community,
We want you to know that we are holding #AWP20 as planned, March 4–7, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. We know there have been concerns about holding the conference at this time due to the coronavirus pandemic. We have been in consultation with local authorities and public health staff in San Antonio. Though events have moved very quickly over the past few days, we do believe that we can work to address our legitimate concerns together by following the recommended public health protocols.
How Did We Make This Decision?
We tried to collect as much information as possible because we know how much this conference means to our community. This morning we met with nearly 30 people from the city, public health, and the convention center team who want to make this a safe conference for all.
This afternoon, we had a phone call with Ron Nirenberg, the mayor of San Antonio, who assured us that he enacted the state of disaster and public health emergency so that he could prevent the previously identified evacuees to Lackland Air Force Base from leaving quarantine for another week, making additional tests possible. His decision stemmed from the release of a previously quarantined person who was later determined to have a very weak positive for the virus; this person was released from quarantine for approximately 12 hours, visited a local mall food court away from the downtown area, and checked into the Holiday Inn Express near San Antonio Airport before being called back to quarantine out of what he described as “an overabundance of caution.” We were also advised that no evacuees ever traveled through the public airports; they were all brought in through Lackland Air Force Base; they will leave via Kelly AFB. He encouraged us to move forward with the conference and provided us with this letter.
AWP is not moving forward lightly. AWP staff and board are doing so out of a sense of responsibility to the communities we serve. Many schools and programs, particularly in the region, have worked so hard to create a truly exceptional conference this year. This includes the many small presses and journals who work hard all year to sell their books, magazines, and promote their programs at AWP. Additionally, we feel the need to support our local partners here in San Antonio who have gone above and beyond to craft a conference that is unlike any we have ever had before in its genuine commitment to persity, local culture, and highlighting indigenous and Latinx voices.
What to Expect at #AWP20
AWP will be posting WHO recommendations for protecting yourself, increasing the amount of hand sanitizer available, and providing disinfecting wipes in every meeting room.
Some literary partners have already cancelled, including the NEA and Academy of American Poets. Some featured presenters have cancelled, and we will provide a list of those names on our website as people continue to make their decisions.
Panel “rules” will be relaxed to ensure that our important conversations can continue; writers may now appear on more than 2 panels.
The Bookfair map may shift so that we can group our exhibitors closer together.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
This will be a handshake-free, hug-free conference. We encourage you to get creative with your alternative greetings and follow the recommendations below to help keep the community safe:
- Get a flu vaccine
- Wash hands often and for at least 20 seconds each time
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- Cover your nose and mouth with something disposable (like a tissue) when you cough or sneeze; throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should always be used if hands are visibly dirty.
- Clean frequently touched items such as cell phones. On your way by plane? Clean the tray table, screens, windows, arm rests, and air vents of your airplane seating area.
- Refrain from shaking hands or hugging.
We encourage everyone, especially those who are elderly or immunosuppressed, to read more about the virus as they make their decision on whether to attend:
Plainly put, we cannot guarantee there is no risk, though we believe this risk can be minimized. We will open all sessions with a reminder of these practices. We will strongly urge that during this AWP all attendees follow these practices as they go out into the community. To attend or not to attend finally must be an individual's decision. We will honor and support whatever you decide.
For Those of You Not Coming to #AWP20
We are providing refunds and credits toward #AWP21 in Kansas City.
We recognize that many of you may not feel comfortable joining us. For individuals not coming to San Antonio, we will offer a refund or a transfer of your registration to #AWP21 if requested. Please forward these requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. It may take some time for us to address all of these requests; we do not anticipate beginning the refund process until after March 10. All exhibit cancellations will be credited to next year.
We are working with the conference center to move more events into the Lila Cockrell Theatre so that they can be livestreamed for people to enjoy from home.
For Panels: While the conference center rooms are not set up for Skype, we are looking into the possibility of people calling in by phone to participate, so people who were planning to take part in panels can still call in. We will have more information about this tomorrow during our daily update.
This is obviously an unprecedented set of events and presents unprecedented challenges to AWP and all organizations that work with the public. We will work to keep you informed and updated throughout our four days together.
Most importantly, if you are not feeling well, please stay home and get well and allow us to provide you a refund or credit.
And again, for individual concerns, please do not hesitate to email us at email@example.com.
The AWP Board of Directors