One is an automotive aftermarket parts group, the other represents the latest in cutting-edge high-tech electronics. They are as different as a robotically driven autonomous vehicle and a blown pony car.
Their differences extend not only to the products they display, but to their approaches to the current COVID-19 pandemic. SEMA’s going ahead with business not-quite-as-usual for its annual convention November 3-6, with attendees present and circulating in the three huge halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center. CES organizers, meanwhile, announced yesterday they’re going all-digital for their upcoming show January 6-9.
“The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) is reimagining how to connect exhibitors, customers, thought leaders and media from around the world while prioritizing health and safety. We are excited to share that CES 2021 will be an all-digital experience,” CES said in a statement. “With the growing global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19, it is not possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas in early January 2021 to meet and do business in person.”
SEMA thinks it is possible to safely convene tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas—in early November. The big blowers and tire beads show is among the few events of its size still planned while the pandemic continues to grow. While gatherings of more than 10 people are banned in some municipalities, SEMA claims it can safely host more than 150,000, or however many actually show up.
Organizers “continue to monitor the landscape and work closely with state/city officials and health experts to provide the industry with the best possible event to help their businesses,” SEMA said in a statement. “With health and safety a top priority, the SEMA Show will include several preventive measures that will minimize risks for all those at the event, including required use of face coverings, addition of hand sanitizing stations, increased cleaning, one-way aisles and more.”
But, as Laurence Olivier said to Dustin Hoffman in the 1976 thriller Marathon Man, “Is it safe?” To get an idea, we consulted the Center for Disease Control, which offers some guidelines.
“The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and COVID-19 spreading,” the CDC said on its Considerations For Events and Gatherings page. “The higher the level of community transmission in the area that the gathering is being held, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spreading during a gathering.”
But the CDC doesn’t mention any specific numbers on its page, and SEMA is certain the size of this year’s show will be manageable given enough face coverings, hand sanitizers and one-way aisles.
SEMA has sent out a survey to its members to gather industry feedback regarding the show.
“The information will help the SEMA staff and board shape future decisions about the show,” SEMA said, wording that at least suggests a change in plans could be possible.
The show is a little over three months away.