Here we go again. Comic convention season in North America has begun, with major events like C2E2 taking place last week and Emerald City Comic Con kicking off on March 12. This means it’s a good time for us to dredge up our very useful convention season survival guide on how to make it through your convention experience with minimal hassle. If you’ve got kids, we’ve got you covered there too. And, perhaps most importantly, our veterans share their recommendations on how to take care of yourself after the event. Because every regular con-goer knows that the high energy hustle and bustle of these events can lead to a major downer when it’s all over, including the potential onset of the dreaded post-convention flu.
But this year brings on a greater concern with the introduction of COVID-19 into the mix.
Or does it?
Emerald City Comic Con has already had to respond to demands that the convention be cancelled in the wake COVID-19. Given that many people rely on such events for their livelihood, on top of those who have been looking forward to the grand time to be had there, calls for cancellation may be a knee jerk reaction. [Writer’s note 3/12/20: I was very wrong.]
COVID-19 is a coronavirus, which means that it’s hanging out under the same classification as everything from the common cold to respiratory ailments like this one, SARS, or MERS that can be transferred between humans and animals. COVID-19 is a new virus that the world hasn’t seen before, and it should be taken very seriously, but it’s not necessarily the cause for panic that following the media may lead you to believe, especially when compared to the annual influenza burden, in general. [Writer’s note 3/12/20: Also wrong.]
As with every flu season, the best precautions involve proper hygiene and distancing. If you or your friends and family members are at higher risk of respiratory illness due to immunocompromising issues, then, again, you should be taking the same precautions you always do at this time of year when viruses are more prominent.
Better yet, take these precautions all the time to help stop the spread of germs on a regular basis.
Wash Your Hands
The first step in controlling the spread of all diseases and viruses is practicing proper hand washing techniques. There is never an excuse not to wash your hands properly. Kindergarten classes often have this information posted in their washrooms for the kiddies, but sometimes adults need a reminder too.
Remember: it’s important not to rush the handwashing process, as a half-assed wash defeats the purpose.
Ignore the media and look to health authorities for more accurate information on the situation. The World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Health Canada, and more have all the information and updates you need to make appropriate, responsible decisions about your travel and event planning.
Pay Attention to the Convention’s Messaging and On-Site Protocols
Like many industries that have now been affected by COVID-19, companies are rightfully taking it very seriously and, in consultation with health authorities, are putting out statements and alerts about the actions they are taking to help minimize the spread of the virus. Pay attention to them! Follow the instructions they are providing for on-site precautions!
U.S. EPA’s Emerging Pathogen Policy regarding cleaning disinfectants effective against the COVID-19 virus. We are working closely with the WSCC and our other venue partners and aligning with local, state and federal public health guidelines and agencies. (3/7)
— Emerald City Comic Con (@emeraldcitycon) March 1, 2020
Respect Everyone’s Personal Space, Including Celebrities and Vendors
Convention floors are crowded and sometimes it’s difficult to make your way in and among the sea of people. Under these circumstances, you’d be hard-pressed to avoid physical contact with others. But there are many circumstances where you’ll be up close and personal, dealing directly with vendors or celebrities. Keep in mind that celebrities and vendors are interacting face-to-face with hundreds of people each day at conventions. That in itself can be a daunting, anxiety-filled situation before germs are even taken into consideration.
With celebrities in particular, be respectful and maybe don’t ask for hugs or selfies if the person doesn’t offer. Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t want to shake your hand. You may be diligent about washing your hands, but not everyone will be, and celebrities and vendors scheduled at their tables and signings will have limited opportunities to do so between visitors. Help them limit their bombardment with germs by offering a classic nod or salute. Finger guns are also acceptable.
It’s Not Too Late to Get Your Flu Shot
Flu season typically runs from October to May. Getting the flu shot earlier gives your body more time to build immunities, but, according to WHO Europe, “It is never too late to be vaccinated if influenza is still circulating; vaccination increases the chances of being protected from infection and reduces severe consequences from the disease.” While there is no vaccination for COVID-19, there are numerous other flu viruses that circulate each year. Getting the flu shot should always be a priority as it can help to protect you and those around you — especially friends and family who may not be able to get the flu shot due to other ailments that affect their immune system.
Wash Your Hands Often
Health organizations have lots of information on when and how often you should wash your hands. Here’s what the CDC recommends:
– Before, during, and after preparing food
– Before eating food
– Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
– Before and after treating a cut or wound
– After using the toilet
– After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
– After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
– After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
– After handling pet food or pet treats
– After touching garbage
Carry Your Own Hand Sanitizer
For those moments when you can’t get to a sink for a proper handwashing, having your own hand sanitizer is a simple convenience and a good thing to keep in your bag all the time.
Don’t Be Nasty
Practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette. If you’ve got to cough or sneeze, direct those germs into a tissue or two and then dispose of them properly. No tissue handy? Use the crook of your elbow. Then scrub down with some of that handy hand sanitizer that you’re carrying with you.
Listen to Your Body
If you’ve developed symptoms of a serious illness like COVID-19, then a crowded convention hall is the last place you should be. We get that these conventions are expensive and mean a lot to you, but sometimes the responsible decision has to be made. You don’t want your biggest convention memory to be becoming Patient Zero.
Seriously, Wash Your Fucking Hands
Seriously. No one should ever need an outbreak to convince them of the importance of hand washing.