COVID-19 pandemic causes furry convention closures and delays worldwide
As governments restrict gatherings of people, furry conventions are being postponed or canceled. Here's a quick run down of events in March and April and their status as of March 31 08:00 EDT (UTC-4) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic - updates to come.
- Blue Ridge Furfare (March 11-14) - Held
- Furnal Equinox (March 20-22) - Canceled
- Thaitails (March 21-22) - Postponed to August 29-30 (first event to take action)
- Otterdance (March 29) - Postponed, dates under discussion
- Furnexion (March 27-29) - Postponed to the second half of 2020 (as of March 16)
- Gateway Furmeet (March 27-29) - Canceled
- Golden State Fur Con (April 3-5) - Postponed to August 28-30; transfer to 2021, another affiliated con or refund available (as of March 16)
- Motor City Furry Con (April 3-5) - Postponed to later in the year, refunds available (as of March 21)
- Just Fur the Weekend (April 10-12) - Cancelled after social events ban; "partial" refunds offered for those not wanting a voucher for April 2-4, 2021
- Fauntastic (April 10-13) - Moved to May 29-June 1, or 2021 if that fails (France banned events of 100+)
- Wild Nights Oklahoma (April 23-28) - Postponed to 2021 (as of March 23)
- Biggest Little Fur Con (April 30-May 3) - Postponed to October 29-November 1 (as of March 14)
- Furry Weekend Holland (April 30-May 4) - Canceled for 2020, reg rolled over to April 16-19, 2021
- FurDU (May 1-3) - Canceled for 2020, reg rolled over to May 7-9, 2021
- WUFF (May 5-9) - Canceled for 2020, reg and hotel rolled over to 2021; refunds must be requested by April 1
- Furry Weekend Atlanta (May 7-11) - Canceled for 2020 (as of March 16)
- FurryPinas (May 9-10) - Postponed until late 3rd quarter 2020 (as of March 21)
- Mephit Mini Con (May 21-24) - Canceled for 2020 (as of March 20)
- ConFuzzled (May 22-26) - Canceled for 2020, to occur next in May 2021 (as of March 24)
- Furlandia (May 22-24) - No Change (as of March 17) but they "have a deadline for deciding on this"
- ZodiaCon (May 27-31) - Allowing registration without immediate payment (as of March 23); Czechia has banned social gatherings of 30+ 'til April.
- AnthrOhio (May 28-31) - Warning that they "may cancel or delay our event this year" (as of March 17)
- Argentina FurFiesta (May 29-31) - No Change, but warning people to obey March's national quarantine and stay at home (as of March 21)
- Furizon (May 29-June 2) - Monitoring the situation (as of March 23); northern Italy is in lockdown until at least April 12
- Anthrocon (July 2-5) - Has given notice of steps they may take and are "continuing to monitor the situation" (as of March 12); a new policy gives two weeks to refund or donate reg if they cancel, or it'll roll over to 2021 (March 25)
- Furway - Is "not cancelled, although there is a definitive possibility" - updates "in early-mid May" (as of March 18)
- PAWAI (July 25-26) - No Change, decision expected by early June (as of March 19)
- Eurofurence (August 19-23) - No Change, while acknowledging the "situation is highly dynamic" (as of March 20)
- Wild North (September 25-28) - No Change (as of March 20)
- Furrnion (typically October) - Deferred to 2021 before even announcing dates
- Midwest FurFest (December 3-6) - No Change (as of March 20)
Links go to statements if available, or to their Twitter feed or site. See also: Furry Fandom and the Internet forced back to roots by viral outbreak
Thailand-based Thaitails, originally set for 21-22 March, attempted to address concerns by offering screening, sanitization and a refund, but on March 5 it was postponed to 29-30 August, with staff saying that their hotel had been "sympathetic and generous to our convention".
Then came Furnal Equinox. Just this Wednesday, the convention was still going ahead, having given a warning about Covid-19 two weeks ago. The next day, they admitted that financial considerations were playing a part in their decision:
As it currently stands, we have committed to business contracts with multiple vendors that have very specific cancellation terms, much like other conventions have. These terms are intended to protect both Furnal Equinox and our business partners, but breaking these contracts at this late date would put our organization into bankruptcy, threatening any future events (either delayed or for future years).
We recognize that other organizations and businesses have taken different steps, but they are in a more secure position to do so. We’re a small organization that took in just over $150,000 last year, and don’t have that same security.
The day after, the convention was cancelled, with registrations rolled over to 2021 - although they did offer refunds, as well as a plea that attendees donate this year's registration to cover the event's costs.
If you can make the new date of Oct 29 - Nov 1, the only action you need to take is to alter your travel plans. Hotel and registration will be taken care of automatically. [...] If you can’t make the new dates, you may use your confirmation email to cancel [...] Likewise, your convention registration is fully refundable. [...] We understand other conventions and events are already scheduled around the same time as BLFC 2020’s new Oct 29-Nov 1 dates. If you were planning on attending one of these other events and our new schedule poses a conflict, please attend that other event!
In the UK, attempts are being made to defer the peak to 10-14 weeks in the future - or May 22, the first day of ConFuzzled 2020. It's usually packed, and some commentators have already pointed out risks:
Every year [...] Confuzzled [...] has a giant cookie [in the main hotel's lobby] that people break apart and eat despite it being a decoration.
[Note: This isn't a current issue; as of 2019, the cookie was cut after display and served from hotel food stands in return for a charity donation.]
In response, ConFuzzled put out a directors' statement on March 5, followed by a flash update last Thursday. But with expectations of a ban on large events as soon as next weekend, the situation remains fluid. On March 15, they laid out the possibility out in more detail, hinting that there might be more government guidance on March 17 - and that, unlike BLFC, postponing to later in the year (especially much later) might not be feasible.
Whilst postponement to later in the year might seem like the easiest solution, we need to consider things like both venues having the space available or suppliers availability aligning with our new dates. Additionally, we would need to consider the stress this would put on our team of volunteers who would effectively be delivering 2 conventions within a 6-7 month time window when taking into account next year’s event. [...]
Whilst we are of course insured for ConFuzzled, there are specific sets of criteria that must be satisfied in each given situation to invoke this process. Currently, owing to the HM Government’s position to not ban mass gatherings as an example, we cannot take the business decision to cancel the convention without there being heavy financial penalties that would jeopardize the future of the event.
The story was similar on March 20 – as while restaurants were closed as of Friday night, hotels were not.
The difficult reality ConFuzzled is faced with is a set of different scenarios that if played out, could mean no more ConFuzzled events in future.
The Directors have a legal obligation to secure the future of ConFuzzled, but also have a moral and ethical obligation to the safety and wellbeing of our attendees and team alike. We want to do everything within our power to ensure we do right by you, the attendee, whilst trying to ensure at the same time we can guarantee the survival of ConFuzzled. [... We] have written to the Government directly for clarification.
So even though it's a government mandated shutdown, your insurance doesnt cover you for this like other events have been? because sorry, something about this does not feel right, and I am extremely uncomfortable with this much money sat in limbo when I'm on disability as is.
— Grumpy Wolf ????????❤️???? 18+ Only (@XanderShadows) March 30, 2020
Sooner still on April 10-12 was smaller UK event Just Fur The Weekend. As of March 6, they also had no plans to cancel, and they followed up on March 15 with a note on precautions they intend to take – and a now-familiar explanation of the cost of cancelling unilaterally. Their message: Don't Panic. Since then, social gatherings have been banned in the UK, and JFTW discussed an "acceptable resolution" with the venue.
This turned out to be a transfer to April 2-4, 2021, with the convention issuing vouchers for registration, hotel rooms and dealers' tables which can be traded or sold. The bad news: being so close to the con, they and the hotel had already incurred expenses, so don't have the money to refund those who don't want to go - and say they will probably only be able to offer partial refunds even after the 2021 event.
…anyone seeking a refund by fully cancelling their voucher will need to wait until additional registration funds for the 2021 JFTW are received and additional expenses paid for. After JFTW 2021, any funds left will be earmarked for pending refunds. They’re likely to only receive a partial refund at best. This is why selling a voucher directly to another attendee is the best way to get the full value of your purchase back. The hotel will honor that voucher without any additional overhead, any additional margin, etc. That kind of direct 1-for-1 transfer is best for all involved.
The need to discuss was shared by ConFuzzled, which was swiftly followed by cancellation of its convention for 2020, staff not feeling it a good idea to try to run two conventions in much less than a year.
LondonFurs staff also announced that, with the closure of public bars, pubs and restaurants, their meets, held every three weeks, are postponed until further notice. It's unclear as of yet whether the restrictions will persist to the summer weekender party, scheduled for July 17 this year.
On the other side of the world, Furry Down Under (or FurDU) will not be held in Surfers Paradise - at least, not in 2020:
Unfortunately due to the new laws banning gatherings over 500 people, and our concern for attendees health, FurDU will be postponed [...] Our new dates will be Friday 7th – Sunday 9th of May, 2021.
We will be offering refunds of course but we will also allow those who already have rego to keep them for next years con, this will give you a guaranteed spot, current dealers will also keep their table in the Den if they take up this option.
Those responding on Twitter seemed to feel it was the right call – perhaps aided by the government's decree. This was also the approximate reason for Furnexion's deferment to the second half of 2020: their guests of honor could not attend Mexico from the USA. As the con was to be held March 27-29, attendee materials had already been paid for, so "unfurtunately" a refund could not be given.
Furry Weekend Atlanta, furry fandom's fourth largest convention by attendance (just after BLFC), announced on March 15 that Atlanta's 30-day event ban, CDC advice to cancel events of 50+ in the next two months, and the emergency return of Georgia's legislature "will have an effect on FWA 2020". The following night, they announced the cancellation of FWA 2020. Many asked about refunds, not being able to justify "donating" sums which could be $350 per person, and in some cases not wanting a transfer to 2021 (if that's available); staff say they are "working diligently to determine options". Hotel room deposits are to be automatically refunded.
At around the same time, Golden State Fur Con announced a postponement to August 28-30, with registration transferred but hotels needing to be rebooked; those not wishing to attend could instead transfer to 2021 or another Corgi Events con - or failing that, get a refund.
In Asia, Indonesian convention PAWAI is still monitoring the situation, and expects to be able to make a decision by early June. But for FurryPinas, early May is too close, and they're looking to reschedule for the third quarter of the year.
Back in Europe, Czech convention ZodiaCon was hoping to go ahead as of March 10, despite a nationwide prohibition against events of 100+ people - and later 30+. However, given the uncertainty, they are no longer requiring immediate payment, and are offering refunds to those who cannot travel; a final decision will be made by May 15. Similarly, Germany's Mephit Mini Con intended to proceed as of March 14, but on March 20 it was called off for 2020.
AnthrOhio is working through its options, given that "canceling or postponing an event comes with many costs that are hard for a non-profit to absorb". Argentina FurFiesta is warning attendees to follow a nationwide quarantine from March 20-31. Italy's Furizon "do not believe that there is any reason to talk about postponement or cancellation" but are "closely [following] the development" (as of March 23) – the region has been in a lockdown since late February, expected to last until at least Easter (April 12).
Anthrocon has stated actions they may take, including restricting attendance from areas where the virus is rampant, requesting that ill people stay home and everyone refrain from hugging, providing hand sanitizer, and postponing or cancelling in the event of "advice" not to hold it by health authorities. On March 25, they rolled out an addendum to their refund policy - registration may now be donated or refunded (optionally, without transaction fees to help them cover the cost) or deferred to 2021. In the even of cancellation, attendees have two weeks to pick, or else be deferred.
Norway's Furway, scheduled for mid-July, is still on but there is "a definite possibility" of it being cancelled - a decision is to be made in early-to-mid May.
Wild North is likewise still going ahead "as it is still six months away, and a lot can happen in that time". But Spanish convention Furrnion, traditionally held around October, will be deferring to 2021.
Midwest FurFest, while noting their main hotel cancelled two months of events, "do not expect this to impact Midwest FurFest 2020 at this time".
What is COVID-19?
In Wuhan, China late 2019 a new viral menace emerged from local butchery markets, called "wet markets". While the practice had been curtailed after previous outbreaks, the Chinese government had turned a blind eye to these market's continued growth. This increased demand in local agriculture and loosened regulation may have been exasperated from the strain when China and Trump started a trade war in 2018 cut American food imports into the country. Now all the market gains since that trade war began have been whipped clean in a matter of weeks, and then some. But regardless of who started the trade war, it finishes now with a war for the health of the human race. In the petri dish of animal blood of those markets in Wuhan, spawned the infamous "Novel Coronovirus"; the disease it causes being termed COVID-19.
After disrupting the economy of China the virus has quickly spread in our interconnected world. As cases started showing up in the United States in late February, the spread continued into early March. At that time the United States declared travel restrictions with allied countries, including most of Europe, hoping to mitigate its import from overseas. However this microscopic immigrant had already made itself at home; Ohio leadership estimated there could be 100,000 infected in the state. Food, toilet paper, and sanitizer has flown off of store shelves as people prepare to hunker down.
So what makes people worried about this particular strain? The mortality rate is around two to three percent with a upward distribution tending more fatal with older age. Of course those with compromised respiratory or immune systems also face an escalated risk of death. This is combined with it being a disease that can be passed before symptoms appear.