Emerald City Comic Con will go on as planned amid growing coronavirus concerns around Seattle
Update: Dark Horse Comics is pulling out of Emerald City Comic Con. "It is with the safety and well-being of our staff and creators in mind that we have come to this decision."
Update: Emerald City Comic Con is now offering fans the option of getting a ticket refund. The event is still moving forward as planned.
Emerald City Comic Con is slated to go on as planned in Seattle from March 12-15 at the Washington State Convention Center.
The event approaches at the same time health officials report growing cases of coronavirus in the region —including six fatalities — and urge people to consider avoiding large gatherings.
Among the features inherent to comic con conventions — like fans, celebrities, and comics — is the dreaded sickness often experienced by those traveling to the events.
So-called "con crud" is akin to the illnesses that arise after flying on an airplane. It's inevitable that bugs will be spread at a these highly-trafficked fandom conventions. But attendees often comment later that their post-event illness was well worth it to meet their heroes.
But comic con goers haven't yet faced the threat of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 — until now.
Samantha Coglan said she is well aware of health concerns surrounding the Emerald City Comic Con. Still, she plans on travelling to Seattle from Fairbanks, Alaska with her husband Ian and their 10-month-old baby.
"We've been planning this, we've got money wrapped into this ... we got plane tickets that can't be refunded, we've already bought our tickets, we've got time approved from work — we are going," she said. "It really hasn't affected us."
The Coglan family will attend the event dressed as Bowser, the bad guy in the Super Mario Bros franchise: Mom will be Bowsette, dad will be Bowser, and they will have a baby Bowser in tow. Samantha Coglan said the the entire family will "wash our hands like normal people."
Representatives of ReedPop, the company that owns Emerald City Comic Con, said in a statement that they are preparing to address coronavirus concerns this year.
They "have implemented enhanced cleaning and sanitization across the show, including adhering to the recommendations set forth in the U.S. EPA’s Emerging Pathogen Policy regarding cleaning disinfectants effective against the COVID-19 virus. We are working closely with the [Washington State Convention Center] and our other venue partners and aligning with local, state and federal public health guidelines and agencies."
Emerald City Comic Con organizers also said that they "are looking forward to four days of fun and we can’t wait to see you."
A spokesperson for the event would only point to the organization's previous statement when asked for specifics.
A spokesperson for the Washington State Convention Center said "“We are open for business and it’s up to our client whether they are going to hold their event or not."
They further noted that:
- If someone with symptoms of a virus is identified or self-reported, they suggest they go to a first aid station for medical evaluation. If the station is not open, please call WSCC security at 206-694-5127.
- They are encouraging clean personal hygeine practices.
- There will be 50 hand sanitizer stations located throughout the building in high-traffic areas (parking garage and lobby entrances, elevators and escalators). These stations will be replenished throughout the day and overnight.
- They are adhering to "thorough cleaning protocol in high-touch areas (places such as the escalator hand rails).
- WSCC also reiterates common tips: wash hands for 20 seconds; use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol or more; avoid touching your face; cover cough/sneezes; stay home if you feel ill.
Emerald City Comic Con saw 98,000 attendees in 2019. With its steady growth over the years, it is likely the event will see as many, if not more people flooding into Seattle this month.
Among this year's crowd will be the Coglan family from Alaska.
Coglan said that her family regularly keeps their "immune systems up" and that living in Alaska with limited sunlight, "we don't have as much vitamin C, so we take Emergen-C ... we carry hand sanitizer with us every day because we have a 10-month-old."
They are aware that the coronavirus is spreading throughout the Seattle area, and has caused six deaths as of Monday morning.
"We're not all that concerned, other than we are looking at it like the flu — it's just bad flu," Coglan said. "We've been through H1N1, we've been through swine flu. It's just a bad flu .... it's just a new, big, scary virus and people are worrying more than they need to."
Other fans discussing the issue online have responded in a similar fashion: they say they're still attending, but will be washing their hands and keeping sanitizer nearby. But others who have expressed more concern said they will cancel their plans.
If attending the convention, or any large event, keep in mind recommendations from health officials:
- Wash your hands regularly and wash them for at least 20 seconds. This is roughly the length of time it takes to sing the first two verses of the Spider-Man theme song (maybe a little longer if you're singing the Ramones' version).
As with the flu, hand-washing is the best way to protect against the coronavirus.
- Hand sanitizers are not as effective as hand washing, but are still a defense against the disease.
- Avoid touching your face. Just imagine you're Wolverine and your claws are out -- watch where you point those things and don't touch your face.
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue, elbow, etc. Try not to cough or sneeze into the open.
- While many people at Emerald City Comic Con will be wearing masks, the best masks to protect against viruses are rated N95. It should be noted, however, that there are mixed messages as to whether masks will help fend off coronavirus at all.
- If you feel ill, just stay home. Pretend you're Doctor Manhattan, and your home is Mars.