Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2023

COVID Forecast Looking Sunny Through Summer

A new forecast from Epistemix predicts that as the weather heats up, COVID cases should continue to decline across most of the U.S.

Assuming no new COVID-19 variant emerges in the near future, meeting and event organizers can feel more comfortable easing their pandemic health and safety protocols for U.S. meetings this spring and summer. This is according to the latest forecast from Epistemix, which bases its projections on historical data, including previous cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as well as the number of partially vaccinated, fully vaccinated and boosted individuals. With two full years of seasonal data now to parse, the company has noted clear seasonal patterns when it comes to how, where and when COVID spreads. This makes it easier for meeting professionals to plan appropriately — just as they’d advise attendees to bring a winter jacket to an event in Colorado in January, they can plan COVID mitigation strategies according to what we now know about how the disease tends to wax and wane.

According to Epistemix’ Q2 2022 Forecast, most of the country will experience low levels of COVID through spring and summer. This means that most meeting organizers can make masking optional for their upcoming events, allowing their attendees to doff the dreaded mask and network face-to-face with no face-covering impediments. “In most regions of the U.S., we’re forecasting low levels of COVID until late summer to early fall,” said Erin Zwick, Director of Health & Disease Modeling at Epistemix.

“Then, depending on your region, you should keep a sharp eye on how things evolve toward the end of the summer and mask for indoor activities if cases increase for two consecutive weeks in your area,” the report said.

“The next wave — if there is one — will probably begin in the South in July and August, followed by peaks in the fall in the Northeast and Midwest,” Zwik said. This means that cities such as Atlanta, Orlando and Nashville could see cases starting to rise in July before falling in September. In Northeastern U.S. cities such as New York and Philadelphia, Epistemix is forecasting a gradual increase this fall, with cases slowly increasing through August. “In the Midwest, including Chicago, the peak will likely be a little later, possibly in October or November,” she added.

As far as how to prepare for events this spring, summer and beyond, Zwik says her company recommends that planners keep a close watch on what’s happening in their specific destination. “If cases have been rising there for two weeks or more, we suggest that planners implement a mask mandate,” she said. “If cases have been decreasing for three weeks or more, they can explore loosening up on masking and other personal health and safety protocols.” Because vaccination is still the best preventive available, she said most of the event organizers Epistemix has been working with during the recent Omicron wave have instituted both a vaccination mandate and masking policies while on site and holding events outside when possible.

While the rise in Omicron subvariant BA.2 in the U.S. is causing a lot of uncertainty for event organizers with near-term events, Zwik reminds that, “We’ve been here before and we’ve handled it, from Delta to Omicron.” She advises planners to stick with their plans unless and until changing conditions require a change in protocols.

“Keep an eye on what’s going on locally so you will know right away if you need to make any last-minute changes to your mitigation plans,” Zwik said. “Then be very clear in your communications…there’s a lot of science jargon involved, so it can be tricky to communicate” about mitigation protocols.

And remember that a forecast is not a prediction. Epistemix advises planners to use its data to develop contingency plans based on the most likely scenarios on the ground at the time of the event —and to budget accordingly. While some of the scenarios may not be what you hope to see happen when the conference dates draw near, having plans in hand will enable you to mitigate risk and minimize uncertainty.

Epistemix’s forecasts are less a crystal ball full of future prophesies than data that can be used on a practical level to ensure the event planning is going to be resilient when it comes to COVID. That way, the company says, no matter what happens, you can create a positive business outcome.


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About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, is a business journal for senior meeting planners that is distributed in print and digital editions to the clients, prospects, and associates of ConferenceDirect, which handles over 13,000 worldwide meetings, conventions, and incentives annually.

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