The American Physical Society’s April Meeting has become the latest event in the scientific calendar to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The annual particle-physics gathering, which was scheduled to take place in Washington, DC, on 18-21 April, has been called off, with organizers working to set up an online “virtual” meeting in its place.
The announcement came less than 24 hours after DC mayor Muriel Bowser declared both a state of emergency and a public health emergency in the US capital, which has so far reported 10 cases of the novel coronavirus amid widespread reports of testing kits being unavailable or in limited supply. Tours of major public buildings in Washington – including the US Capitol – have been suspended, and schools in neighbouring Loudon County, Virginia have been closed in an effort to limit the virus’ spread.
In a statement, the APS cited concerns for “the health and well-being of its members, attendees, and staff” as well as the local community as reasons for the cancellation. Other factors included the World Health Organization’s 11 March decision to characterize COVID-19 as a pandemic and recommendations that communities adopt “social distancing” measures to reduce the epidemic’s speed and severity.
Details of the planned “virtual” meeting were not immediately available, but there is a growing precedent for such events within the physics community. After the APS March Meeting, which focuses on condensed-matter physics, was cancelled earlier this month, a group of would-be attendees set up a “virtual meeting” website. As of 12 March, some 150 talks had been uploaded to the website, which by then had 8000 users and received 50,000 page views. The American Association of Physicists in Medicine has also elected to turn its spring clinical meeting – which had been scheduled to take place in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 4-7 April – into a virtual event.
Participants who registered to attend the APS April Meeting will receive a refund of their fees. An official letter of cancellation is also available to help registrants cancel or claim back the cost of flights and accommodation. More information is available here.