Review the Speakers' Sept. 10 update for the November HOD meeting.
As you were previously informed, the Board of Trustees suspended the regularly scheduled Interim Meeting and requested the Speaker to call for a Special Meeting to be held on the original scheduled dates. Simultaneously, the Speakers were asked to fully investigate the option of a hybrid meeting as an alternative to a virtual meeting. After thorough consideration, your Board of Trustees has decided to proceed with an entirely virtual meeting on November 12-16, 2021, the details of which will follow in the Speakers’ Official Call to the Special Meeting.
For the past several weeks, your Speakers, our AMA event planning and HOD teams, and the technical and audio/video consultants thoroughly investigated a hybrid option. We began by researching locations that could accommodate our HOD meeting and were available November 12-16. We also sought a locale with high COVID vaccination uptake and a relatively low COVID infection rate. Only one city had availability based on these criteria. A team was then sent to this location for a site visit and confirmed that it could house a hybrid meeting.
Recognizing that robust in-person attendance was unlikely, due to varying constraints on individual delegates, your Speakers and our technical team reviewed options for a hybrid experience. The hybrid would function in effect as a virtual meeting with added in-person attendees. The number of delegates who would attend in-person is not known. Unquestionably, the experience, even for those attending in-person, would not replicate our past in-person meetings that we all fondly remember. The meeting would have to be held in a convention center, a 10-minute walk away from the host hotel. Caucus meeting rooms would be split between the hotel and the convention center. The use of convention centers in the past has met with dissatisfaction from participants.
The debate in the House could be managed with some adjustments, but the hybrid option would suffer from the same or potentially more inefficiencies as our recent virtual meetings. Of greater concern, reference committee hearings would be hampered by the inability to offer live video testimony input from remote participants, leaving them with only the option to offer testimony via chat that would be then projected and/or read by the chair in the hearing room. Your Board felt this presented an inherently unequal experience for virtual attendees that was unacceptable.
Given the unpredictability of the pandemic, the situation in mid-November at any venue is of potential concern. While the location is currently relatively “safe,” circumstances in two months are hardly guaranteed, as the past two months have clearly shown. In addition, most attendees would need to traverse crowded airports, exposing themselves to potentially unvaccinated or even ill travelers. Breakthrough cases have been increasingly documented, which could lead not only to illness among our attendees, but also to potential spread from our participants to others during their travel and upon their return home. This risk weighed heavily on your Board.
Ultimately, after considerable deliberation of these and other concerns, and the fact that the meeting would not be a true “in-person” experience, the Board made the difficult decision to abandon the hybrid option and have asked the Speakers to proceed with the call to a virtual Special Meeting, which is forthcoming.
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