This message is to let you know that the 2021 SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo will be held as a virtual event. Although we had hoped to be able to hold a traditional, in-person meeting in Orlando, Florida, it has become clear that this will not be feasible. Even if the vaccine trials underway are successful, mass immunization will not be possible by the time of the Annual Meeting. Under current circumstances, the SOT-designated space for Scientific Sessions within the Orange County Convention Center can accommodate a maximum of 2,500 attendees at a given time, but without six-foot distancing; with six-foot distancing, only 600 people can be accommodated. The Florida Department of Health guidelines encourage postponement or cancellation of meetings with more than 250 attendees. These facts make it impractical to stage even a partially on-site meeting.
Additional factors that SOT Council considered include the continuing spread of the virus, the pace of vaccine development and inoculation, the experiences of universities as they reconvene, and the decisions that have already been made by organizations regarding travel and meeting attendance.
Considering all factors—and as an organization whose mission is to protect and improve public health—we concluded that a virtual meeting is in the best interest of our members and meeting participants.
We will take advantage of state-of-the-art technology that will allow us to present a full agenda. We will provide more details on how all aspects of the Virtual Meeting will work in subsequent communications and on the 2021 Annual Meeting website, which also includes an expanded message explaining the rationale for this decision.
I realize this is a disappointment to many of you. Like you, I consider the SOT Annual Meeting to be more than just a chance to see the latest science; it’s also a chance to see old friends and make new ones. I view the Society and its members as extended family, and I know many of you do, too. Accordingly, I made this decision with an exceptionally heavy heart. But as much as all of us will miss the camaraderie and networking, we cannot take the chance of putting you at risk. Finally, please note that this decision was made after a long discussion by SOT Council. It is a consensus decision; however, I take full responsibility for the decision. Please direct any comments you have to me.