IEEE VR 2020 Conference: The Real-World Event in Atlanta Will Be Replaced By a 100% Virtual Event Because of the SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 Pandemic

Dozens of real-world conferences and events are being postponed or cancelled because of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, but the upcoming IEEE VR 2020 virtual reality conference, which was to have taken place March 22nd to 26th in Atlanta, Georgia, has done something unprecedented.

The announcement on the official conference website says:

VR 2020 – Venue Change due to COVID-19 Concerns

VR 2020 will now be an online event

Out of an abundance of caution surrounding COVID-19, the decision has been made to convert the in-person component of VR 2020 into an all-digital conference experience – VR 2020 will now be an online event. Therefore, VR 2020 will no longer take place in Atlanta, Georgia and will instead take place virtually. The conference dates remain the same – 22-26 March 2020.

We are excited to support many more attendees now that the conference is being held online, which will be provided free of charge for non-authors. More details will be available soon for online registration.

Please see my previous blogpost for information on how to register to attend this conference, for free.

A survey for those who have already registered for the in-person conference states:

IEEE VR 2020 is moving to be exclusively online, and to a very different financial model to support the publication, presentation, and sharing of your research in light of the venue cancellation. The general chairs and steering committee have chosen to use a simplified model of a flat-fee per published contribution ($450). This is to support maximum attendance at the online event, allowing non-author registration to remain free of charge.

The purpose of this form is to let us know how you want to allocate your registration payments to your associated published research contributions (e.g. poster, paper, demo abstract), and to determine any refund that you are due. Note that refunds are not guaranteed until all fees are fully covered for your contributions. Each published contribution requires a fee of $450. Please work with any of your coauthors to determine who is going to pay these fees.

By the way, the organizers are actively looking for volunteers to help pull this off, so if you’re interested, here’s the form to volunteer. I’ve already signed up, and I hope to see you online for the conference!

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SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 Update: March 6th, 2020

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

Late this afternoon, Minnesota reported its first case of COVID-19:

The patient is an older Ramsey County [St. Paul, Minnesota] resident who had been on a cruise ship with a known COVID-19 case. The unidentified person sought health care yesterday after developing symptoms on Feb. 25, according to the Health Department, and is currently recovering at home in isolation. All of the patient’s identified contacts will be asked to quarantine themselves for two weeks and they will be monitored by public health officials for symptoms.

The state’s testing laboratory confirmed the presumptive case today and a sample will be sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for final testing.

And I tweeted:

With over 100,000 cases on six continents, and many countries (including most of the U.S. West coast and New York City) reporting person-to-person spread within communities, EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS A PANDEMIC. We don’t need the World Health Organization to tell us.

The world is facing a situation at least as serious as the 1918/1919 Spanish flu pandemic—and many countries are quite simply unprepared. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic will severely disrupt everyday life and society in a way that we have not seen in over a century. What is happening in mainland China, and throughout Iran, and in northern Italy, and in South Korea is no longer somebody else’s problem, on the other side of the world.

It is our problem.

It is YOUR problem.

The question is: how are you going to prepare yourself for this?


I am going to repeat this information for those of you who have not been paying attention, who still think this will all blow over (it won’t):

How to Prepare for a Potential Pandemic

Here, once again, is a reminder of what you should be doing to prepare: mentally, emotionally, and physically/logistically.

You will probably need to prepare to stay isolated in your homes for a period of several weeks, avoiding contact with as many other people as possible, as a wave of illness caused by the Wuhan coronavirus sweeps through your community, forcing schools, businesses, and public transportation and public gathering places like movie theatres and shopping malls to close (as we already seen in Wuhan and many other cities in China, as well as places such as South Korea, Iran, and northern Italy). The time to prepare for the imposition of quarantines and social distancing policies by local governments is NOW.

If you need lists of how to prepare and what to buy in order to get your household ready for a potential pandemic, here are seven suggestions to help you get started:

You will need to have on hand:

  • AT LEAST two weeks of non-perishable food and other supplies (toilet paper, first aid supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, garbage bags, etc.). There are already reports of panic buying in many places around the world, including North America. You do not want to leave it to the last minute! If you cannot find any hand sanitizer, you can make your own (see the recipe below).
  • Refills of all your presecription medications, plus a stock of over-the-counter medicines (talk to your doctor and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of your prescription medication).
  • Power sources (flashlights, extra batteries, car chargers and adapters for your mobile devices, etc.). The power probably won’t go out, but it’s better to be prepared than sorry.

Other things that you should do:

  • Sign up for any local alerts from your city, state/province, or federal government (or know where to find the information on the Internet). Find out what plans your employer is making (and if they’re not making them now, they should be).
  • If you haven’t yet, get your seasonal flu shot. It can’t hurt, and it will help to figure out whether or not you do have SARS-CoV-2 if/when you do become sick. Many areas now give out the flu shot for free.
  • Train yourself NOT to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth! The SARS-CoV-2 virus can remain viable on hard surfaces anywhere from 2 hours to 9 days (scientific journal article source), and you can transfer the virus from your infected hands to your mouth, nose, and eyes by touching or rubbing them.
  • Watch the following videos from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on how wash your hands properly! Yes, I know I have posted it numerous times before. You may think you already know how to wash your hands properly, but you still might learn something you didn’t know before. Proper hand hygiene will also help you avoid catching regular seasonal colds and influenza, so there’s a net benefit to society.

How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer

There have been reports of panic shopping in various countries around the world, including in North American. In particular, hand sanitizer is in short supply, with many stores being sold out of stock. Fortunately, if you cannot find sanitizer to buy, you can make your own. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:
2/3-cup rubbing alcohol (99% isopropyl alcohol)
1/3-cup aloe vera gel (GEL, not liquid)

Directions: Add the alcohol to the aloe vera gel and stir. Using a funnel, pour the mixture into a pump bottle; you can use cleaned soap bottles for instance, or you can find inexpensive pump bottles at dollar stores. If you have empty store-bought hand sanitizer bottles, you can use those.

If you wish, you can add 8-10 drops of essentials oils. Lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint and orange oils, which have been shown to have some antibacterial properties (source), would be a good choice.


Good Sources of Information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19

Here is my updated list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (formerly called 2019-nCoV and now officially called SARS-CoV-2; the disease the virus causes is now called COVID-19):

If you want a quick, up-to-date overview of the current situation, here are some good places to check:

Stay informed, get prepared, and stay healthy!

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, showing global COVID-19 outbreaks in red