COVID-19 infection numbers are exploding to new highs across the country and the globe because of the virus' omicron variant. Last week, it half-derailed CES, one of the world's largest trade shows, despite its organizers' colossal efforts to ensure a safe gathering.
This is not where anyone wanted to be or thought we would be with just two months to go before the NADA Show is scheduled to return to Las Vegas on March 10. But for the safety of all, show organizers must be prepared to shift gears — and even cancel live, in-person events — if circumstances do not radically change in the next few weeks.
And maybe they will: Dr. Anthony Fauci has predicted the omicron surge will peak late this month. So perhaps there's reason to hope the picture will not be so bleak in March. But there's no telling when the next variant will emerge, so contingencies must be planned — and we're confident that they are.
Like so many others across the industry, we are eager to return to an in-person show this year — to renew relationships and get back to something closer to business as usual. But a continually mutating virus has once again cast a pall over those plans, and with the safety of showgoers and exhibitors of paramount concern, the National Automobile Dealers Association must be prepared to act — and may need to do so soon.
At a minimum, NADA should step up to CES' standards: vaccines required to register, masks mandated for public gatherings in line with federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and daily rapid tests to halt an outbreak before it spreads like wildfire.
Setting these expectations now gives dealers and vendors time to get vaccinated if they have been putting it off.
While omicron cases appear to be generally less severe than those with earlier strains of COVID-19, the variant can be grave for the unvaccinated and a significant inconvenience to others — especially those with airplane reservations.
Last year, NADA demonstrated that an online show can work. While the exhibitor experience understandably struggled to make the digital jump, the educational portions of the show actually saw increased attendance.
We are learning to live with this virus, and we will all be able to congregate again soon. But until then, safety must remain the top priority, even — or especially — when it's time for the industry to come together.