Tips to Mitigate COVID-19 Risk in Atlanta

AACC is implementing robust COVID-19 safety protocols at the 2021 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo. We also know that many attendees are looking for advice on how to minimize their COVID-19 risk as much as possible while in Atlanta. We have therefore pulled together the following helpful tips on how to lower your risk during every step of your trip—from the airport to the convention center—as well as some additional guidance for those who are still undecided about attending in person.


If You’re Undecided About Attending In-Person

We hope that the resources below, in addition to the meeting’s rigorous health and safety measures, will increase your confidence in making the decision to participate in-person at the annual meeting. But, ultimately, the risk/benefit equation will work out differently for each person and that decision still rests upon you.

For example, if everyone in your household is fully vaccinated and generally healthy, you might conclude that any risk to you is low and the value of full participation in an in-person conference warrants accepting it. On the other hand, if you have unvaccinated younger children or immunocompromised family members at home, you might want to be more cautious.

Both conclusions are, of course, equally reasonable and we encourage you to thoughtfully consider your own situation and personal comfort level before making a final determination about attending our meeting. But if you are on the fence or leaning negative, we urge you to keep the option to attend open and not make a decision today that you will regret later. To maximize your ability to do so, AACC is offering attendees the opportunity to convert their existing registrations to attend in-person to a digital pass without financial penalty until September 26.

Before You Leave Home

Get a COVID-19 Test

All in-person participants at the AACC Annual Scientific Meeting must be vaccinated, and must also have received a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test within 3 days of arriving at the convention center.

Through a Health Center or Pharmacy

For attendees in the U.S., COVID-19 tests are available at no cost at health centers and select pharmacies nationwide thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. However, if you are requesting a rush turn around on your test results, please be aware that there may be a charge. Therefore, make sure you plan accordingly. Additionally, be sure to read your chosen testing site’s instructions since different sites may have different operating procedures.

Check out the following resources below to find a health center or pharmacy where you can get a COVID-19 test:

For non-U.S. attendees, contact your healthcare provider or check with your national or local health agency to find the latest local information on testing.

Use an At-Home Test

If you need to be tested for COVID-19 and can’t get tested by a healthcare provider, you can also consider using a home test that’s authorized by FDA or the equivalent regulatory agency in your country.

These home tests are available by prescription or over the counter in a pharmacy or retail store.

Make Sure You’ve Packed Everything You Need

Before you leave for the airport, double check that you have everything you need to satisfy the meeting’s entry requirements:

  • Proof of full vaccination status
  • Proof of your negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test result within 3 days of arriving at the convention center
  • A face mask that fits snugly across your nose and under your chin

Additionally, be sure to bring extra face masks just in case you end up needing a back-up, as well as hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.

At the Airport

Flying remains one of the safest methods of transportation, even for COVID-19. In fact, the ventilation systems in airplanes make them one of the better environments for air quality, despite how it might seem sitting close to other people.

The most important thing to keep in mind when flying? Wearing a high-quality mask. In the U.S., wearing a mask is required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation and while indoors at transportation hubs such as airports and train stations.

In addition to hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), many people now carry disinfecting wipes. That way they can ensure for themselves that their seat or other areas are disinfected.

TSA rules allow travelers to carry on sanitizing wipes in any quantity. The rules are more nuanced for hand sanitizer going through security: TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice. But containers larger than the standard allowance of 3.4 ounces of liquids permitted through a checkpoint might need to be screened separately.

At the airport before and after your flight, the advice remains the same: keep your mask on, and maintain your everyday precautions like handwashing and social distancing, when possible. You’ll find most airports have seating areas that are less crowded than others where it’s easier to maintain distance if that’s a concern.

At Your Hotel in Atlanta

You’ll spend a significant amount of time in your hotel room on any trip, so it makes sense to make a plan to create a safe, relaxing environment. Hotels have come a long way since 2019 in their cleaning and safety protocols. That said, many people feel most comfortable if they sanitize surfaces themselves.

This is another great reason to bring your own disinfecting wipes for door handles, light switches, tables, and other high-touch surfaces.

And as always, wear your masks and practice reasonable social distancing in public areas of the hotel.

If you prefer no one enter your room during your stay, don’t hesitate to ask for housekeeping to wait until you leave. Some hotels will even drop towels outside your door if you prefer no one enter.

At the Convention Center

Before you leave your hotel and head to the Georgia World Congress Center, double check again that you have everything you need to satisfy the meeting’s entry requirements.

Don’t forget your extra face mask and hand sanitizer either (though contactless hand stations will also be available throughout the convention center).

Another important thing to do is to anticipate the situations you may find yourself in at the meeting and think about your comfort level in these scenarios. For example:

  • You may be seeing people that you have not seen in quite a while. Not everyone will be comfortable with hugging or shaking hands. It is okay to simply nod your head or wave as a greeting. Ask your colleagues how they would like to be greeted.
  • You will be attending sessions with social distancing measures in place. Seats will be spread further apart than in previous meetings. This will mean that there are fewer seats in rooms. If the session is one that you don’t want to miss, be sure to arrive early to get a seat. Over-crowding in rooms will not be allowed.
  • At some point during the meeting, you will have to eat and drink. You are required to keep your mask on at all times while in the convention center, but the one exception to this is if you are eating or drinking. So think about what your comfort level is with taking your mask off to drink your morning cup of tea or coffee. Ask yourself, also, where you would feel most comfortable eating your lunch.

Eating Out vs. Ordering In

Atlanta has dining options for everyone, both in terms of cuisine and risk level. As you prepare for your trip, determine where you’re most comfortable eating, whether that’s in your hotel room or at a restaurant. Then do some research to identify places that are near the meeting and match your comfort level where you can eat and/or order food.

  • Room Service: Check ahead to see if the hotel where you are staying offers room service. This can be a great option if you would prefer to stay in your hotel room for your meals.
  • Carry-Out: Most restaurants have an option for carry-out. You can find these restaurants using apps or websites such as YELP, Open Table, or The Downtown Dine Out | September 2021 | Downtown Atlanta (atlantadowntown.com). You can also ask your hotel concierge to recommend restaurants around the area that provide carry-out.
  • Outside Dining Options: Look for restaurants near the Georgia World Congress Center that have outdoor tables. This way you can eat out while still being outdoors.
  • Dine-in Options: Many restaurants in Atlanta are open for full-service dining indoors. You can locate these restaurants using apps such as YELP, Open Table, The Downtown Dine Out | September 2021 | Downtown Atlanta (atlantadowntown.com), or by talking to your hotel concierge.