ASHA and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center have implemented many practices and protocols to ensure that we have created a comfortable, safety-conscious environment for everyone. By providing an overview of what you can expect onsite, our goal is to help you feel confident about participating at the in-person ASHA Convention.
First and foremost, everyone—including staff—has had to provide proof of vaccination to register for the in-person event. Vendors who have verified their vaccination status will be wearing green wristbands to indicate that they’ve also been vaccinated. (Most ASHA vendors have met the vaccination requirement; however, not all vendors you’ll encounter onsite fall under ASHA’s purview.)
If you are traveling to the DC area, know that currently, the District of Columbia has one of the lowest positivity rates in the country, at just above 5%. Positivity in the greater Washington, D.C. metro area is currently also low, with relatively high vaccination rates.
We will also have fewer on-site attendees this year with the Virtual Library hybrid option and other circumstances, so the typical “big convention crowd” that you might be envisioning will not be the case. In addition, the Convention Center is a massive building—at 2.3 million square feet—and can accommodate up to 42,000 attendees. Space in hallways and session rooms will be abundant.
The District of Columbia requires that all people older than age 2 must wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status. All participants at the in-person ASHA Convention in Washington, D.C., will be required to wear masks at all times, except when actively eating or drinking. (As in any facility, you can temporarily pull your mask down to take a quick drink as long as you are seated.)
Please bring your mask and be prepared to wear it the entire time you are participating. We will have some CDC-approved surgical masks available on-site if you forget or lose your mask.
Presenters may remove their masks when presenting, if they are comfortable doing so.
The Walter E. Washington Convention Center has earned the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s® GBAC STAR™ facility accreditation, which defines international standards for sanitation, disinfection, and hygiene. They are using cutting-edge cleaning techniques to prevent infection.
The building is the first convention center in the world to utilize the Synexis DHP BioDefense System to reduce microbes and fight viruses, bacteria, and mold in the air and on surfaces throughout occupied spaces. All areas including tables, chairs, carpets and walls are treated with BIOPROTECT™ by SurfaceGuard, a non-toxic surface treatment that provides a long-lasting layer of protection against harmful microorganisms, including algae, bacteria, fungi, and mold. Disinfecting technology, such as surface treatments and UV light, has been implemented for high traffic touchpoints such as door handles and escalator rails. (Learn more about the Convention Center’s health and safety guidelines and initiatives.)
Rooms will be given a light cleaning after each session. Presenters will follow instructions for cleaning the head table in the room after their session; they will use provided cleaning materials. Our AV team will clean shared equipment between sessions. Deeper cleaning will take place overnight.
Enhanced cleaning will take place during Exhibit Hall hours as well as more thorough cleaning each night after the hall closes.
Hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the Convention Center, and restrooms are plentiful, so you may duck in to wash your hands, as needed.
We have intentionally reduced contact points where possible and have created extra space in certain areas to avoid crowding and improve traffic flow.
Badges and badge holders will be mailed in advance, and you will be able to scan your badge yourself to check in at Registration. Tote bags and ribbons will be located in an expanded area of the Exhibit Hall to reduce crowding. (We are not distributing a printed program book or exhibit guide this year; the mobile app will be your primary onsite resource.)
Plexiglass shields or other barriers will be in place at contact points like Registration, Info Booths, and ASHA Lounges.
Seating in the session rooms has been reduced where possible, and you will find socially distanced seating arrangements in session rooms. This includes theater-style seating with wide gaps or short rows of three chairs, with wider walking aisles in between. We will also have sections of chairs arranged 6 feet apart and marked orange for those who are more comfortable with greater distance (as room size allows). If tables are used for any special sessions, they will be cleaned during the break.
The aisles in the Exhibit Hall are extra-wide this year at 40 feet across. There will be plenty of room for people to pass through the aisles while others stop and chat with exhibitors.
Additional seating has been added in the lunch area in the Exhibit Hall to allow for more physical distancing while people are eating and drinking unmasked.
Optional orange ribbons and wristbands will be available that allow attendees to indicate that they prefer to maintain a greater physical distance. You will see signage throughout the center, reminding everyone to honor others’ physical distancing preferences.
Food and drink may only be consumed while stationary. Because of this, there are designated areas for eating with ample seating. This also means that you can bring your coffee to a session room and drink it once seated.
Plenty of pre-packaged grab-and-go tasty food options will be available to reduce the presence of open containers. Pick what you like, and bring it over to a table to enjoy your snack or meal.
Instead of the typical water dispensers with cups, water will be available in individual bottles throughout the center. You may also bring your own drink or filled water bottle.
Thermal scanning stations monitored by Convention Center staff are located at the building entrances to take your temperature before you enter the building.
We have a designated rapid testing room where you should go if you are experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms. Anyone who received accommodations for the vaccination requirement due to disability or religious belief will need to check in and be tested at the rapid testing room before they can proceed to Registration.
A first aid area will be available for those who need immediate medical attention.
We are required to retain your contact information (as provided when you registered) for contact tracing purposes in the event that anyone is found to have contracted COVID-19 while at the ASHA Convention.
You may wish to download D.C.’s free COVID-19 Alert Notice (DC-CAN) app, which notifies users who have likely been exposed so that they can reduce the risk of infection to their personal contacts and help stop the spread.
Read more about CDC mask recommendations and guidelines.