Megaplex holds large furry gathering - one fur tests positive for COVID
For the first time since January 2020, one of the eight largest furry conventions opened its doors to an in-person gathering. Megaplex 2021 saw 2,889 attendees on the first weekend of August 2021, ~80% of 2019's pre-pandemic total. $50,000 was raised for the C.A.R.E. Foundation.
Staff set COVID-19 policies and required masks in most cases, doing their best to make guests comfortable while cautious of the viral crisis that plagues our world. Unfortunately, despite all their efforts, one vaccinated individual said they tested positive after the event.
As pressure continue to rise to get things back to normal, reported COVID cases over the past few weeks have started to amass concern. The rate of reported cases in the United States suggests a spike in infections and hospitalizations on an early exponential trajectory starting around mid-July. This is especially worrisome given that the growth for the first wave in the United States was linear in Summer 2020 before growing exponential that Fall.
This time, however, unlike 2020's wave that touched everywhere fairly evenly sooner or later, the second wave is so far biased toward certain states suffering the brunt of the impact. Looking at the 50 states, it appears to be based on a combination of tourism and the state's political actions. Florida, as a result, is one of the worst hit, with its seven day moving average already over the peak of its highest prior infection wave.
A false sense of security?
There are obvious concerns about holding a large gathering in the midst of new, more contagious variants, in a country where only half the population are fully vaccinated. Even worse, while the vaccines are effective at helping one resist the worst symptoms of the disease and lowering your viral load, you can still become a carrier that could spread the contagion to others if exposed for extended periods. The person reporting to have gotten COVID from Megaplex had been vaccinated themselves. You may not transfer it as easily as those with no protection what-so-ever, but it does not provide immunity.
With these kinds of stories, those looking for any excuse not to be injected have pounced on these “breakthrough cases” to question the effectiveness of the vaccine and continue to refuse to take it. However, the biggest surge of the increased infection rate has been via unvaccinated individuals, in states where a lower percentage of the population is vaccinated.
But while making these arguments, instead of suggesting that we need to be more cautious about opening public gatherings, since these vaccines are alleged to ‘not work’, the United States’ political actions have shown an opposite belief, in that the current circumstances have completely eradicated the virus. Hanging a mission accomplished banner on the aircraft carrier, giving a sense that those who got vaccinated are enough while coddling the insecurities of their constituents that are wary of taking the vaccine.
It is that worse-case duality of political actions in states such as tourism-heavy Florida that pressures the politicians to open the floodgates of their tourism industries, while ignoring that there is a man eating shark in the waters. The movie Jaws clearly has become more timeless over time.
Due to this government position, conventions like Megaplex may not have much of a choice in whether they hold their event or not. If they hold it, they risk the lives of furries; if they don’t, they risk breaking contract with the hotel and being homeless for when or if they ever could open up again. So should the worst happen, try not to blame the staff of Megaplex as much as the circumstance - and state - they found themselves in.
A wary eye toward the future
As cases are spiking back up, there are going to be many eyes on the fallout from Megaplex. Should no reported casualties or major debilitations result from this, which will hopefully be the case, then furries may decide that it’s safe to go back in the water as long as proper precautions are maintained. However, should the worst come to pass and we lose people, then this will impact the year's future gatherings.
Doc Wolverine, a self-styled "Practitioner of Medisin" who has appeared on convention panels representing their profession, gave an estimate of 6-10 unvaccinated con-goers losing their lives within six weeks. Should this occur - and given the course of the illness, we won't know until then - this will have a negative impact on attendance rates for future gatherings, whether they're actually held or not. For it’s one thing when a political leader says it’s okay to go swimming, but no words can obfuscate the site of blood in the water adjacent to a dorsal fin.
Furrydelphia, DenFur, Biggest Little Fur Con, and Midwest FurFest are still scheduled to hold in-person events this year. However, should cases continue their current trajectory, it wouldn't be surprising if restrictions on in-person events return. Especially in states not as beholden to tourism pressure politics. Of the two, Midwest FurFest might be the most at risk of being postponed again than Biggest Little Fur Con, held in the tourism-based state of Nevada.
DenFur, only a few weeks away, is requiring attendees to be fully vaccinated, and is urging attendees who visited Megaplex or another event to get tested prior to going - they will defer ticket to next year's event for anyone showing positive results.
Should the worst happen, one will hope that people do not give up working toward getting things back on track. As summer has gotten people to remember how great it is to get out and do things, perhaps they will start noting the negative impact that being unvaccinated has towards this goal, and will plug their noses and get the shot. Hopefully before yet another variant rears its ugly head.
Time will tell, as it usually does. In the meanwhile for news around COVID and vaccinations, follow Chise on Twitter, who has received accolades for her analysis of COVID-related news and articles.