CHICAGO (CBS) – What a difference two months makes.
In mid-July, conventions and major events such as the Chicago Auto Show returned to McCormick Place. We saw large crowds and few masks, and did not think much about it.
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But just then, the Delta variant of coronavirus spread, and the world took a U-turn back to strict COVID protocols.
CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas took us back inside McCormick Place to see how a convention can be held despite an increase in cases.
The best brains and best gadgets in 3D printing are all recently gathered at McCormick Place. But one of the most popular at the convention was a little simpler.
“Honestly, everyone has brought their masks, knowing it,” Angie Zerlong said.
The RAPID + TCT conference – one of the largest conferences in the 3D printing industry – was originally scheduled for April. They also planned from the beginning to spread things out more this year on the convention floor.
“We’ve designed the floor plan quite differently this year with wider hallways,” Zerlong said.
The pandemic forced Zerlong and other organizers to push the event back to September. They did not know at the time that Chicago and the rest of the country would struggle with the Delta variant.
“I would say we have put in place all health and safety measures and we have allowed things like live streaming for those who feel more comfortable watching remotely and being involved in it,” Zerlong said.
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Organizers said the conference will bring about 3,500 people to McCormick Place during the three-day event.
“People are coming in outside the city,” said University of Illinois at Chicago epidemiologist Katrine Wallace. “Lots of people gather in doors.”
Wallace recommends several precautions for this event and others like it.
“It would be safer if they also had vaccine cards and / or the negative COVID test,” she said.
McNicholas asked Zerlong if there were any such requirements for the convention.
“No, we follow all CDC guidelines; local mandates, but we are not currently mandated for vaccines, ”she said.
Exhibitors say the conference lets them showcase their products in a way that a video cannot.
“We took the vaccines and we put on the mask and we do everything we can to continue living with this,” said Shai Terem, CEO of Markforged. “I do not think it will disappear soon.”
But if only it would.
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The last day of the conference is Wednesday. Organizers say their attendance will end up being about 15 percent less than the number before the pandemic.