20 October 2022

Request for Community Feedback on AAS 241 COVID-19 Policy

On Monday, 17 October, the AAS Board of Trustees released our planned COVID-19 policy for the 241st AAS meeting in Seattle, Washington (8-12 January 2023), which we know is important to members of our community and may impact decisions on whether or not to attend the meeting. It is incumbent upon the Society to deliver an inclusive, productive, and safe venue for in-person attendees at our meetings.

Based on current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, as well as consultation of guidelines adopted by the medical community itself for professional meetings (including the American Medical Association), we have decided to keep our vaccine + booster mandate in place, but we are relaxing our masking policy to encourage but not mandate masking if the CDC Community Levels remains “low”, both in Seattle and across most major population centers (because many of our attendees will fly to the meeting from those centers). Should either Seattle or significant portions of the rest of the nation rise to “medium” or “high” levels, as defined by the CDC, we will reinstate the full mask mandate for our attendees.

We understand and appreciate that this policy will be met with thoughtful and reasonable pushback or support along multiple axes. AAS leadership completely sympathizes with those who feel strongly that our policy should be more rigid with respect to masking than CDC guidance currently suggests; the conversations happening now within our community were entirely mirrored in our Board discussions as we were voting on this new policy.

We recognize that for members who are immunocompromised or are in close contact with immunocompromised individuals, in-person meetings present a challenge. While we know that the virtual experience now available through the hybrid meeting platform is not comparable to in-person interactions, we are hoping that this option will — at least partially — enable access to meeting content and interactions.

Ultimately, the AAS is your Society. We, therefore, want to hear from you. The AAS has always sought to calibrate our policies not only in response to evolving public health guidance and national/global COVID-19 levels, but also to the perspectives and wishes of our members. While it may be challenging to reach a full consensus on exact best practices for COVID-19 mitigations at our meetings, we do want to hear and understand the diverse perspectives of our community.

We encourage members who are particularly affected by masking policies to submit comments on this policy at [email protected]. We will be monitoring this inbox regularly over the coming days, and responses are transmitted in full to the Board to help inform its decision-making. Thank you for being an AAS member and helping us to make the best decisions for our community.

We hope to see you in Seattle.

— The AAS Vice Presidents