The transmissibility of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 seems to have affected many attendees at the ETHDenver developer conference, who reported symptoms and positive test results following the event.
Many social media posts from ETHDenver attendees after the conclusion of the Feb. 11–20 conference claim they tested positive for the virus. A local news outlet reported that more than 12,000 people from 100 countries attended the event, which resulted in many infections among both the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
According to ETHDenver’s COVID policies, attendees and staff were required to “take a rapid [antigen] test, on-site, prior to picking up their badge” and requested not to visit any of the event’s in-person venues if showing symptoms. However, the conference did not enforce a vaccine mandate, said that only “some public locations” required participants to wear masks, and did not mention social distancing.
Despite these measures, many attendees posted photos of positive COVID-19 tests or otherwise reported experiencing symptoms. The line for testing had ETHDenver guests waiting outside in the winter weather and photos from the event seem to suggest people wearing masks were in the minority. The event is also currently wrapping up a three-day skiing retreat to Breckenridge.
“None of this is surprising,” said Time staff writer Andrew Chow, who tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving the crypto conference. “Thousands of people from around the world descended upon a few indoor spaces [...] and proceeded to talk loudly in each other’s faces for hours on end. People wearing masks were few and far between, and social distancing was nonexistent.”
Many U.S. states have dropped mask mandates in recent weeks as the number of daily COVID cases fell from more than 1 million in January to a seven-day average of roughly 80,000 at the time of publication, according to data provided by the New York Times. The number of cases in Denver County seemed to have followed this nationwide trend, with a weekly average of 177 as of Feb. 23.
“Attendees joked that ETHDenver 2020 had been one of COVID-19’s initial superspreader events. The 2022 edition was a reminder that the pandemic is still fully in swing, no matter how much people want to put it behind them.”
The CDC recommends both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals wear a mask in “areas of substantial or high community transmission.” In addition, it suggests that “everyone ages five years and older” should receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Though vaccines have been largely available to most U.S. residents for more than a year, other large gatherings in the crypto space have produced similar results. Some media outlets called the Bitcoin 2021 event in Miami a “super spreader event” after many attendees reported testing positive for COVID-19 upon returning home — more than 12,000 people were at the Florida conference.