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Emerald City Comic Con takes heat for not requiring masks or vaccination at upcoming event in Seattle – GeekWire

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ReedPop, the company behind the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, announced Wednesday that it plans to substantially relax its COVID safety protocols for the 2022 show in August, which has drawn criticism from many of the artists and exhibitors who’d planned to attend the show.

ECCC broke the news via Twitter and its official website, with a short statement credited to ReedPop VP of Events Kristina Rogers. While ECCC will adhere to King County’s current regulations regarding conventions and other large gatherings, it will not check attendees’ vaccination or testing statuses at the door.

It also recommends that attendees wear high-quality masks, but may only require their use at certain panels or in specific areas.

For attendees who are no longer comfortable with the idea of going to ECCC, ReedPop has opened a window for refunds that will extend until July 9.

“We decided to align with the greater Comic Con events community by following local guidelines,” Rogers said in an email to GeekWire. “We’ve received about 50 refund requests since the announcement and a handful of our exhibitors and creators will be unable to attend.”

ECCC 2022 is planned to run at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle on Aug. 18-21. It currently features a big lineup of guests from the American comic book industry, as well as creators from other popular nerd media like movies, TV, anime, and video games.

However, ECCC’s loosened COVID policies are causing a substantial backlash on social media. The official #ECCC hashtag, at time of writing, is primarily devoted to criticism of the loosened policies.

Matthew Inman
Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal and Exploding Kittens signs autographs at Emerald City Comic Con. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

A particular issue has been the timing of ECCC’s announcement. An exhibitor at the show, speaking anonymously, told GeekWire that they’d paid for space on the show floor, but ReedPop waited to announce its COVID policy changes until one day after the deadline for withdrawal had passed. That leaves them with the ugly choice between potential COVID exposure and losing a significant amount of money, particularly for working artists who make a lot of their income off the annual convention circuit.

“We understand there are a ton of moving parts when it comes to making a convention,” said Nick Trujillo, producer at the Seattle-based online boutique Dual Wield Studio, in an email to GeekWire. “We understand it’s a tight position to balance hosting a convention during a pandemic and trying to keep all the relevant parties happy, but it cannot come at the expense of all the people who pay to exhibit or attend.”

Dual Wield, which may be best known in its role as the official merchandising partner for the popular social deduction game Among Us, was previously one of several local businesses that stepped in to assist artists with ECCC’s COVID-related rescheduling in early 2020.

Jen Vaughn, a Seattle-based comic book creator and podcaster, was ECCC’s artist in residence in 2018. “Emerald City Comic Con was a premiere convention to attend, to speak at, or to have a table at because they were good at creative problem-solving, making the con experience fun, and listening to feedback,” Vaughn said to GeekWire via Twitter. “Unfortunately, it seems like that has changed.”

The international convention circuit in 2022 has been doing its best to try and get back to normal after COVID, with many of the typical annual shows going on as scheduled.

At the same time, several conventions’ attempts to go back to the pre-pandemic status quo have failed. The Penny Arcade Expo East in Boston last April was the site of at least one fatal COVID exposure, as one of the volunteer “Enforcers” died shortly after the convention’s end.

More recently, CBS-Viacom held its VidCon event, targeted at digital content creators and their fans, in Anaheim, Calif. from June 22 to 25. Attendees reported that VidCon 2022 made no attempt to enforce COVID policies at all, which has allegedly resulted in a super-spreader event.

Several other American events have initially announced similarly relaxed COVID policies for attendees, only to quickly backtrack. The staff at Anime Expo, an independent convention for fans of Japanese animation held in Los Angeles, released a statement on June 8 that it wouldn’t require attendees to show proof of vaccination. One day later, it rescinded that in favor of reinstating its 2021 guidelines, which include mandatory face coverings within the venue.

For independent artists who may be financially affected by ECCC’s COVID policy, Dual Wield recently launched the Convention Artist Safety and Health (CASH) fund.

“CASH is a company-wide effort,” said Trujillo, “originally borne of incredulous spite when Anime Expo publicized changes to their mask and vaccination requirements mere weeks before the show dates. While AX ultimately did the right thing by reverting to their original policy, we were certain this wasn’t going to be the last time this kind of thing would happen. We were right.”

Artists and exhibitors who can no longer attend this year’s ECCC can fill out the CASH’s online form in order to exchange a single commission for any non-refundable costs they may have incurred. The initial $10,000 for the CASH fund was fronted by Dual Wield. Anyone interested in contributing to it can do so through purchasing a specific set of merchandise on Dual Wield’s online store.

ReedPop canceled the 2020 show and held ECCC last year in December.



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