The temporary COVID-19 hospital at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago being toured by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker April 3. The hospitals beds are set up in at least two of the expo halls, included two used the for annual RSNA radiology meeting in November each year. Photo by Susan Blair, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District
(UPDATED information added to this article June 10, 2020)
April 28, 2020 — Medical conferences are where the latest science and technology is shared and specialties like cardiology revolve around the information from these meetings. However, these meetings in March, April and May have been cancelled due to the rapid spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2) and there are big questions looming as to how long conference cancellations will continue.
The world largest health IT conference, the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) annual meeting, was cancelled in early March just a few days before its opening. There was a landslide a cancellations from attendees as hospitals began telling staff not to travel because they might be needed if the hospitals had to implement emergency plans in case of any sudden surges of COVID-19 patients. Vendors then started pulling out of HIMSS because they set rules to protect their employees from traveling or exposure to large gatherings, or because all their meetings with hospitals were cancelled due to travel bans.
As the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. was becoming evident in early, questions were immediately raised whether the American College of Cardiology (ACC) three weeks later would go on. While the ACC officials said the show would go on, it was forced to cancel the in-personal annual meeting a week later. The host city Chicago and the State of Illinois announced plans to ban large gatherings and begin a shelter in place order the second week of March. The day the ACC was schedule to begin in Chicago, the convention center began conversion into a 3,000 bed COVID-19 overflow hospital.
Travel bans on hospital staff is the largest factor in the cancellations and any chance of reopening these meetings. When the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) cancelled its 2020 scientific congress scheduled March 29-31 in Vienna, Austria, the prevention of faculty and attendees from being at the meeting was an overriding factor.
"It is clear that severe measures must be prepared, and that physicians and hospitals need to ready themselves to deal with the epidemic," said EHRA President Hein Heidbuchel, M.D., Ph.D., University of Antwerp at the time of the cancellation in March. "As a result, over the past few days, more than a third of our congress faculty have had to cancel their participation – a number which continues to rise. We have discussed the situation with our partners who share the opinion that, under the current circumstances, cancelling EHRA 2020 is the only responsible course of action."
So, until travel restrictions are lifted by hospitals and healthcare systems, there remains a question as to how many cardiologists can actually attend in-person meetings for the foreseeable future.
ASE Converting to Virtual Meeting
ACC was able to quickly refocus efforts on creating an abbreviated virtual conference to include all the late-breaking trial presentations, poster presentations and some of the key sessions in partnership with the World Heart Federation. Fees to attend the online meeting were dropped and more than 38,006 unique attendees from 157 countries attended.
With COVID-19 numbers continuing to rise fast in the U.S. through April, shelter in place orders and cancellation of larges events continues in many places around the country into late May. If COVID case numbers do not level out soon, there are questions about further extensions through the summer. Even if numbers drop, there is a question if hospitals will allow employees to travel to meetings.
The May in-person meetings were cancelled for the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) and the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI), but are still being held as virtual meetings.Information on the HRS 2020 meeting virtual sessions starting May 8 can be found at https://www.hrsonline.org/HRS2020Science. SCAI's sessions on May 14-16 can be found at http://www.scai.org/SCAI2020.
The American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) decided not to wait and see what happens and cancelled its in-person meeting March 17. The meeting was slated for June 19-22, 2020, in Denver, Colo. Instead, ASE is moving to a virtual meeting format to deliver elements of the program and provide access to new echo technologies. Information on this was still pending as of April 28. Find more information from ASE. The virtual meeting is now shceduled for Aug. 8-10, 2020, https://www.asescientificsessions.org/ase-2020-virtual-experience-2/.
"The decision to cancel our scientific sessions was difficult, but the health, well-being, and safety of our members, staff, exhibitors, and attendees is of utmost importance during this COVID-19 pandemic," ASE posted in a statement on its website. "With the majority of our ASE members on the front lines, it was in the best interest of everyone that we cancel the meeting to ensure the safety of everyone."
CRF Structural Heart Meeting Goes Virtual
The Cardiovascular Research Foundation (CRF) decided in April to cancel its in-person Transcatheter Valve Therapeutics (TVT) meeting set for June 17-20 in Chicago and instead convert it into a virtual meeting.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered our professional and personal lives," CRF wrote on the TVT website. "Under these historic circumstances, it’s difficult to consider conducting a large in-person educational meeting like the Transcatheter Valve Therapies (TVT) Summit in the next several months."
Details are still be worked out for the virtual event, but it will include with live and on-demand content featuring late-breaking study presentations, challenging cases and some select content from the original agenda.
CRF and ASE both cancelled their fellows courses originally set in May. ASE has created a virtual fellows course instead own its website.
"For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for upending old ways of thinking and finding new, more effective ways to work," said CRF president and CEO Juan Granada, M.D., in a letter to cardiologists
TCT Interventional Meeting Goes Virtual
(UPDATED June 10, 2020)
The large in-person CRF Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) 2020 interventional cardiology meeting originally scheduled for September in Miami, has been converted into a virtual meeting set for Oct. 14-18, 2020. Find out more details at https://www.crf.org/tct.
AHA Scientific Sessions Goes Virtual
(UPDATED June 11, 2020)
As of June 11, the American Heart Association (AHA) still planned to host its in-person Scientific Sessions 2020 Nov. 14–16, in Dallas, Texas. However, it is making provisions for virtual attendance and virtual poster presentations for phsyicians who cannot attend in person. Find more information at professional.heart.org/professional/EducationMeetings/MeetingsLiveCME/ScientificSessions/UCM_316900_Scientific-Sessions.jsp
RSNA meeting Goes Virtual
(UPDATED June 10, 2020)
The massive Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) radiology in-person meeting in Chicago has been cancelled and converted into a virtual meeting. Find more information at https://www.rsna.org/Annual-Meeting.
EuroPCR Likely Cancelled
(UPDATED, June 11, 2020) - The inperson EuroPCR meeting was cancelled in May, but a three-day PCReCourse has been created for June 25-27, 2020. It will simultaneously broadcast live on five channels, and the content will be available on demand. It will include a virtual exhibition. Find more information at https://pcr.6connex.com/event/ecourse2020/register.
The large European interventional cardiology meeting EuroPCR scheduled for May 19-22, 2020, in Paris, France, may be cancelled. As of April 28, the event is not cancelled, but it will largely depend on what happens May 11 when the French public health officials determinations determine whether to extend shelter in place orders and cancellation of large public gatherings.
"A legal decree published on Wednesday 15th of April limits the event ban in France until the 11th of May, and the French President announced on Monday 13th April that major festivals and events gathering a large number of participants will not be permitted until at least mid-July 2020," according to a EuroPCR statement on the future of the event. "We are therefore currently evaluating the present environment on a day-to-day basis, also taking into account all the various situations."
These situations include the ability of registered participants, faculty, presenters and exhibitors to attend the meeting.
UPDATE May 6, 2020 - EuroPCR Cancels Annual Meeting Due to COVID-19
The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) meeting in August is also going virtual because COVID-19 containment efforts in The Netherlands that restrict large meetings until Sept. 1. Read more in the article ESC Congress Goes Virtual Amid COVID-19 Concerns.
SCCT July Meeting Undetermined
(UPDATED JUNE 10, 2020 — SCCT cancelled its in-person meeting and converted to an virtual conference )
At this time, given available information, the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography (SCCT) said it is still too soon to make decisions about its annual meeting set for July 16-19, in Seattle, Wash.
"We are asking our faculty and attendees to please keep July 16-19 on your calendars," the SCCT website says. "However, to the extent that we can, we are preparing for alternative options, which include remote participation or an entirely online meeting."
Seattle was the site of one of the first large outbreaks of COVID-19. The outbreak led public health officials there to cancel the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) annual meeting March 28-April 2.
The CRF-sponsored Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) meeting, the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) annual meetings start in September. Organizers of those meetings at waiting to see what happens with COVID-19 trends. There an expectation the virus might rebound in the fall during the time period these conferences are slated to be held.
The largest radiology conference in the world, the Radiological Society of North American (RSNA) is scheduled for Nov. 29 - Dec. 4 in Chicago. At this time, RSNA said it is proceeding with plans for an in-person meeting.
"We are hopeful that the coronavirus outbreak will subside before the meeting," RSNA said on its website. "The health and safety of attendees, exhibitors and personnel remain our top priority. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and consider the recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health authorities."
RSNA is held at the McCormick Place Convention Center, which is currently set up as a 3,000 bed COVID-19 field hospital to handle any surge in patients. It is unknown how long the hospital will remain in the exhibit halls traditionally used by RSNA.
UPDATE May 6, 2020 - SCCT Plans to Make 2020 Annual Meeting Virtual Due to COVID-19