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.
Con Season Is Back!
When I arrived at the event Thursday, the first thing I noticed was how every single person I saw was wearing a mask, save for those who were sitting at designated tables for eating.The exhibitor halls were very spaced out, and I could walk around from booth to booth without feeling cluttered at all. Luckily, Friday felt the same way, with all the attendees wearing masks and staying distanced.
Once Saturday hit, though, my opinion changed drastically. Most people were wearing masks while strolling, but a significantly larger number of con-goers weren’t wearing a mask compared to the days before. Also, the exhibitor halls went from feeling very spacious to forcing guests to walk shoulder to shoulder. There were many more attendees on Saturday than Thursday and Friday, but there weren’t any changes in social distancing efforts to accommodate that increase.
As for why many of the Saturday attendees didn’t wear masks when those who attended the days prior had, I’m not exactly sure, but the lack of efforts to keep people masked on Saturday was disappointing.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances on Saturday, MegaCon did enforce their mask and safety guidelines in different ways. During my online readings of the convention hashtag on Twitter, I was able to see that some con-goers were upset that MegaCon staff weren’t allowing them to enter the event without a mask. I, however, think it’s a great measure to take to keep other attendees safe. Additionally, throughout the event, a recorded speech played over the speakers of the entire convention center, reminding con-goers to either wear a mask or go home. Fans that refuse to wear a mask even just to enter the con obviously don’t seem interested in following the other safety guidelines, which makes their attendance a hazard to others.
A Good Start, But…
Overall, I’m glad to see that con season is back. I think this convention was a good blueprint for how big events like these should be held while we’re still in the COVID-19 pandemic, but it would’ve been beneficial for MegaCon to have enlisted specific staff to walk around and remind everyone to wear their masks, rather than just have a voice on the intercom speak. Also, spacing out booths in the exhibitor hall would be great for controlling crowds and maintaining social distancing. With more anime and comic conventions slated to take place this year, I hope to see these events go above and beyond with keeping con-goers as safe as possible.
UsagiMed is all about improving safety and reducing your con’s liability. Call on us so we can be your event partners. As you plan and prepare, we will answer any questions you may have about addictions, mental health, and creating a safe space for all your attendees, guests, and staff. Feel free to drop us a question and we will answer you.