As you know, the SOT leadership has been closely monitoring the situation related to the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) over the past several weeks with the health and safety of our members and their students, attendees, staff, partners, volunteers, and communities as the priority. As previously communicated, we have been taking our guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as public health officials from the state of California, Orange and Los Angeles Counties, and the city of Anaheim. While these authorities continue to maintain that the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in these communities is low, after lengthy and thoughtful deliberations, SOT leadership has made the decision to cancel the SOT 59th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo scheduled to take place March 15–19, 2020, in Anaheim, California.
This decision was not made in haste as the situation remains fluid and is rapidly evolving. We considered that while our public health experts maintain that the risk is low, there is a perception by multiple organizations, such as US governmental agencies and pharmaceutical companies, that the risk is unacceptable and they have therefore instituted travel bans for non-business critical activities, such as conferences. Several conference organizers also have recently decided to cancel their meetings. At this time, it appears the most reasonable means to aid in the mitigation of unintended infection and community transmission is social distancing. Thus, with heavy hearts, we made the difficult choice to cancel the meeting. We noted, too, that if we proceeded with holding the Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, the Society’s ability to deliver a scientific program that meets the expectations of standard and excellence for which our meeting is known would be in question, especially considering the travel restrictions imposed upon many of our members and registrants.
Thank you to the SOT community, partners, exhibitors, vendors, and volunteers who have dedicated so much time and work into preparing this meeting. We share everyone’s disappointment in its cancellation. The decision to cancel the meeting will result in a substantial financial loss and will curtail our ability to implement strategic initiatives for the foreseeable future, but for the health and safety of all, the decision was necessary.
Information on how to request a full refund of your registration fee, or to request that your registration roll forward for next year’s meeting, will be shared within the next 24 to 48 hours. Exhibitors will receive a separate communication with information on how to roll their booth reservations to 2021 or receive a refund.
For housing reservations made through Connections Housing, you will need to contact the hotel directly to cancel or alter your booking. For those who booked travel through the SOT travel provider, ATC Travel Management, SOT staff will manage the cancellation of your travel and housing arrangements for the SOT 59th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. For all others, you will need to make adjustments to your housing and travel arrangements personally.
For those who were sharing research during the SOT Annual Meeting, your abstracts have already been published in The Toxicologist PDF on the SOT Annual Meeting website. The Toxicologist: Late-Breaking Supplement PDF will be published and shared this week.
We appreciate your patience as we work to determine if and how the planned scientific content for the 59th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo may be shared further. We are looking into the possibility of holding the Annual Meeting at some later date this year, but this probably is an unrealistic solution. As a result, we will be looking into other ways to present the Annual Meeting content over the course of the year, including by webinar or through regional meetings. We welcome your suggestions and ideas.
This unprecedented action has resulted in quite a few logistical items that need to be resolved and we ask for your understanding. If you have any questions or concerns that are not addressed in this message, please be patient as we will provide another update with additional details later this week.
Also, please save the date for the 2021 SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, scheduled for March 14–18, 2021, in Orlando, Florida, where we look forward to renewing the Society’s annual exploration of the latest research in toxicology and collaborative exchanges among colleagues and friends.
Ronald N. Hines, SOT President
On behalf of SOT Council