The last in-person conference I went to was the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care Spring Conference, March 4 to 6.
I arrived in San Diego early, on the last day of February, to enjoy the city for a few days before the meeting started. I landed on the same day as the news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had announced the first potential outbreak of COVID-19 in a U.S. long-term care facility and the first case of COVID-19 in a U.S. healthcare worker, a caregiver in that facility.
A few days later, as the NIC conference began, people checking in at the hotel encountered bottles of hand sanitizers at the front desk. But some people never checked in; NIC President and CEO Brian Jurutka said the organization saw a 100-room drop from the Friday preceding the meeting until the gathering’s first day on Wednesday, when registrations totaled approximately 1,900. He estimated that fears of the virus would result in a 10% decline in registrations, based on peak room nights.
Some of us who were there greeted one another by shaking hands, but others bumped elbows or stuck with a verbal greeting. At lunch, the people at my table eyed the basket of rolls warily; none of us took one. The novel coronavirus was still novel to us, but it already was affecting our actions.
Since then, of course, our professional and personal lives have been upended in ways we would not have imagined a year ago. Some conferences have been canceled, and others have been rescheduled and moved online.
We at McKnight’s changed our second annual Women of Distinction event — an awards presentation and, new this year, a slate of educational sessions — from a May in-person event to a July online event that, from all accounts, was a resounding success (you can watch on-demand here). And we ramped up our online continuing education with new McKnight’s Online Forums dedicated to COVID-19-related information as well as additional webinars and McKnight’s Product Theaters, where companies showcase their products, to address readers’ needs.
And now the fall conference season has begun, putting on display the Herculean efforts that the industry groups have undertaken to transfer their shows from convention centers to computers. McKnight’s Senior Living covered last week’s LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies’ 15th annual Collaborative Care HIT Summit (see the articles here and here). And we’ll be covering the virtual conferences of NIC, the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, SMASH and LeadingAge, too.
But next up is Argentum. If you’re registered for the Senior Living Executive Conference, I invite you to attend a session I am moderating on Tuesday from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. — “Insights from the C-Suite: Getting Ahead of the COVID-19 Crisis.” Brookdale Senior Living President and CEO Lucinda “Cindy” Baier, Discovery Senior Living CEO Richard J. Hutchinson, Senior Star CEO Anja Rogers, and Ascension Living President Danny Stricker will be sharing how the coronavirus has affected their organizations and what they see for the future of the industry.
But rest assured, if you cannot attend some or all of these conferences, we will be there for you, reporting on the latest news as we always have so that you can be successful in your work. Just in a new way this year.