Re: Ethical Responsibilities of Genealogical Organizations during the Global COVID-19 Pandemic #guidelines #education

Jeffrey Mark Paull

Moderator note: While this is one individual's feelings and thoughts, it will be the IAJGS 2021 Conference Committee who will make the decision to have the conference virtual, live or a combination of both. 

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 500,000 on Sunday, February 21, 2021, a milestone that underscores the grave threat the virus still poses (  Currently, only 13.6% of the U.S. population has been vaccinated, and, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Americans may still be wearing face masks in 2022 (

Since January 11, there has been a five-week downward trend in COVID-19 cases. .Even with these declines, however, the 69,165 cases reported on February 17 remains higher than what was seen during either of the first two peaks in the pandemic (

Although it is difficult to predict what the COVID-19 incidence rate will be at the time of the IAJGS International Jewish Genealogy Conference in August, it is unlikely that herd immunity will be reached by then, and strict public health precautions, including masks and social distancing, will be required.

There is still a shortage of vaccine supply in most states, and achieving a 75% vaccination rate by August probably represents a best-case scenario.  Even if this vaccination rate is achieved, however, many people in the high-risk group, or those with pre-existing conditions, may not feel comfortable travelling to Philadelphia to attend a large in-person international conference.  People with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, may also not feel comfortable having to wear masks while they are traveling, or whenever they leave their room in the conference hotel.

Given these uncertainties, many IAJGS conference speakers and attendees, myself included, would much prefer attending a virtual conference to attending an in-person event this year.

Registration for the 2021 IAJGS Conference begins in March.  It is my hope that the IAJGS Board will follow the lead of other genealogical organizations, such as the National Genealogical Society, and plan for a fully virtual conference, or a hybrid conference with a virtual option.  No one should be put in the position of having to register for an in-person conference that they are not comfortable attending for reasons relating to their health, safety, and comfort.

Jeffrey Mark Paull, DRPH

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