This Editorial Is Authored By UsagiMed Intern and Writer Allison Marrero
Con season is back! Anime, comic, and gaming conventions across the U.S. have been returning, with events like Katsucon, Holiday Matsuri, and Anime Weekend Atlanta scheduled to take place in the upcoming six months. Some events have already occurred though, with one of the biggest conventions in the east, MegaCon, having taken place in Orlando this August, boasting over 100,000 attendees over four days.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of last year, I, along with most con-goers, have been steering clear from the convention scene due to health and safety concerns. However, MegaCon stated online that they would be heavily enforcing attendees to keep their masks on at all times except during stationary eating. I decided to attend for the full weekend and see how the mask and distancing guidelines carried out.
To Mask, Or Not To Mask? As of June 13th, over 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., with 43.6% of Americans being fully vaccinated. However, alongside these growing numbers, the CDC has been changing their mask and distancing guidelines, currently advising that vaccinated Americans are not required to wear masks and can resume participating in activities they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, many schools are returning to fully in-person instruction, eliminating remote and distanced class settings, and many states have lifted their mask mandates as well.
Anime and gaming conventions have been around for decades, giving fans of all sexualities, genders, and identities a space to celebrate the fan cultures they love. Regardless of who they are or where they came from, fans can find solace in conventions. However, finding safe spaces to express yourself isn’t always easy. While LGBTQ+ acceptance has improved significantly in the last ten years, there are still struggles that LGBTQ+ individuals continue to face. Our conventions work relentlessly to keep the space as accepting and forward as possible, through both their policies and precautionary measures.
Carolina Fear Festival has nothing to be afraid of. Usagi Medical Group was happy to provide advisory services to Carolina Fear Festival (CFF) as they plan their reopening this year. With one phone call that took less than an hour, we quickly discussed their concerns and current public health strategy, and some additional considerations for them to make as they plan their upcoming event, scheduled for May 29 and 30 in Raleigh, NC.
The U.S. returning to normalcy is seeming much more likely thanks to the rapid influx in COVID-19 vaccinations, with 21.3% of Americans being fully vaccinated as of April 11, 2020 (NPR COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker). As millions of vaccines are administered every day, public events, such as conventions, can be planned under safe conditions. However, most anime conventions haven’t been held in over a year, and while usually one year wouldn’t make much of a difference in the number of people interested in the subject of the convention, 2020 lockdowns give rise to a different story.
All of us are looking at the convention-planning horizon with undisguised optimism. We are all champing at the bit to throw a big party and get back to our cons. But we must continue to exercise caution. None of us want the public humiliation of fostering another outbreak that puts our friends and fans at risk.
The recommendations and mandates that have been in place for the last twelve months are slowly changing as we get more and more data about rates of infection, hospitalization, and the availability of a vaccine. As the data continues to get updated, Usagi Medical will help your con AT NO COST on an advisory basis. We’ll help you answer some critical questions: