ORLANDO, Fla. – A number of big companies have dropped out of a health technology conference in Orlando amid fears over the coronavirus, as another education technology convention canceled its in-person event altogether.
Ellucian, a higher education software company, announced Tuesday it was shifting to a virtual-only conference in April. The event was set to take place in Orlando but now Ellucian will move to an online format that will be free to all persons who were registered to attend the in-person event.
“In light of the growing concerns around the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Ellucian has made the decision to cancel Ellucian Live 2020 to protect the health and well-being of our customers, partners and employees,” a statement said. “We will replace the in-person event with a virtual experience that will be free to all registered Ellucian Live 2020 attendees. We will be issuing full registration fee refunds.”
Meanwhile major technology companies, including Amazon, Intel and Cisco announced they would no longer be attending a separate conference happening next week at the Orange County Convention Center, which the president may attend.
The cancellations come hours after a third case of the coronavirus was reported in Florida.
President Donald Trump announced plans earlier this week to attend the HIMSS20 Global Health Conference and Exhibition, according to CNBC.
The global health information and technology event starts March 9, according to the HIMSS website. The annual conference attracts more than 1,300 exhibitors and offers more than 300 educational sessions, the website said.
A spokesperson for Amazon released the following statement regarding the decision not to attend:
“Due to the continued concerns about COVID-19, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in the HIMSS20 Conference, scheduled for Mar. 9-13 in Orlando. We’ve reached this decision after much consideration, as the health and safety of our employees, customers, and partners are our top priority.”
Intel has also decided not to attend the conference, with company officials releasing the following statement about their cancellation:
“Intel has withdrawn from HIMSS and notified the organizers. The safety and wellbeing of all of our employees is our top priority. As a precaution, we have implemented travel restrictions to areas significantly impacted by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, and restricted attendance at events that don’t apply similar travel restrictions to attendees. We’re monitoring the situation closely and working to ensure that our employees have the information and resources they need to stay safe.”
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Cisco, another company that has chosen not to attend the conference amid growing fears over the spread of COVID-19, said in the following statement posted to its website that its team is disappointed over missing the event:
"Cisco has made the decision to withdraw from participating in HIMSS (March 9-13, Orlando, FL) due to ongoing concerns about the current outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
While we are extremely disappointed that we cannot continue with these events as planned, we strongly believe this is the right decision given the current circumstances.
We continue to keep those directly impacted by this situation in our thoughts."
Event organizers released the following statement on the HIMSS20 website, saying they’ve assembled a team of experts to help monitor the situation.
"Our top priority remains the health and safety of all participants at HIMSS20, including attendees, exhibitors, market suppliers, staff, industry partners, and others involved in the HIMSS Global Health Conference and Exhibition.
Given the dynamic nature of this situation, HIMSS has assembled an external panel of medical professionals to further advise our evidence-based decision-making and review our procedures."
The event’s website said that while the risk remains low, organizers can’t ensure a virus-free environment and have outlined specific measures for those traveling to attend the conference here.
It’s unclear whether the growing fears over the virus or the cancellations have impacted Trump’s plans to attend.
“The state of Florida’s economy is incredibly dependent on tourism,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
He spoke with News 6 and clickorlando.com exclusively on Wednesday night.
“I think it’s important that we constantly reassure John Q Public and the citizens within the sound of my voice and all those monitoring what’s happening in Florida that we are prepared. We know what we’re doing,” he said.
On Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered his top health officer to declare a statewide public health emergency. Since then, at least three cases of the coronavirus have been reported statewide.