One gathering not canceled in Honolulu: A conference on risk management

One gathering not canceled in Honolulu: A conference on risk management
Attendees at the Pacific Risk Management Ohana conference had access to extra hand sanitizer dispensers that were set up at the Hawaii Convention Center. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many large gatherings in Hawaii have been canceled due to concerns about the new coronavirus, but other events are still going on with some changes.

The Pacific Risk Management Ohana Conference kicked off on Wednesday.

Signs were posted with information about COVID-19. Participants also received fliers asking them to avoid handshakes and hugs.

Organizers said they've been closely monitoring the global outbreak.

"Immediately when this broke and came out, we shared information about this, and we encouraged people who were sick or have health conditions to not come," said Karl Kim, director of the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center.

The gathering was originally expected to attract about 300 attendees from various countries, including China and South Korea.

Dozens of people, including some keynote speakers, decided to skip the conference.

The event brings together experts to share ideas on mitigating hazards and dealing with disasters.

“This is a time for us to also look at and study topics like quarantine and isolation and social distancing,” said Kim. “So based on the importance of the work that we do, we decided to go ahead.”

Participant Lori Peek decided to fly in from Colorado for the conference after weighing the risks.

“I definitely checked with my university, checked with our Centers for Disease Control, and was watching their guidance each day,” she said. “At the end of the day, I made the call to get on the plane, but take all of the precautions that have been recommended about hand washing and so forth.”

Peek is the director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

The school announced Wednesday that all classes will be done online for the rest of the semester.

"Our staff at the Natural Hazards Center, we've moved to a virtual work environment already," said Peek. "I feel this is one of the big lessons of disaster, is that those of us who don't need to be in a place, we stay back so that the emergency responders can be in place."

Later this month, the First Hawaiian Motor Con is expected to draw big crowds to the convention center. Organizers of the auto show said they’re tracking the situation and working with the facility to boost cleaning in public areas, including the show floor and vehicles.

In June, Rotary International is expecting 20,000 attendees for its convention in Honolulu.

The group issued this statement:

“As the health, safety and well-being of our participants and the people of Hawaii are Rotary’s first priority, we are monitoring COVID-19 daily and following the advice of the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We will make adjustments and take all precautions necessary.”

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