The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is taking its annual meeting virtual amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In light of epidemiological projections, government regulations and public health mandates to prevent the spread of disease—including social distancing, limited crowd sizes and face coverings—the Academy has been forced to cancel its in-person annual meeting this year,” said the AAO in a statement on its website.
The academy will present a virtual-only event to engage and connect members and to deliver the critical scientific and clinical information that you expect from the most important ophthalmology meeting of the year.
David W. Parke II, MD, chief executive officer of the AAO, in a video posted on the academy’s website, noted that the decision was based on the ability to “realistically and safely” put on a high-quality show.
“Now the data are much clearer,” said Parke in the video. “The epidemiological predictions, the government mandates, the requirements for social distancing, and for maximum crowd size make it absolutely impossible for us to put on the type of quality meeting that you expect and that we expect.”
As a result, Parke said in the video statement that the AAO would be converting this year’s event, planned for the weekend of Nov. 14 in Las Vegas, to a purely virtual meeting.
“This is the first time since 1945, at the height of World War II, that the academy has had to cancel the event,” he said.
Parke noted that the AAO has been hosting virtual meetings for 7 years and will spend the months leading up to the event ensuring everything is in place to deliver a quality educational experience.
“We will do our best to provide virtual networking and social activities in this context,” he said. “We were absolutely forced to take the step that we did take, compelled by the data. That is what we all should do as scientists.”
The website now includes information for anyone who is registered and for presenters. Additional details will be released over the coming weeks.
For anyone who has already registered for the meeting, the academy will send information by Aug. 12 about the options available, including receiving a refund, applying payments made to the AAO 2020 virtual meeting, or transferring the registration to AAO 2021 in New Orleans.