ReedPop’s Foolish Safety Changes Are Putting Convention Attendees At Great Risk

ReedPop, one of the biggest fan convention organizers in the US, announced yesterday that it is removing all Covid safety measures from this year’s Emerald City Comic-Con in Seattle. In a statement posted to Twitter, VP of events Kristina Rogers wrote that “this decision isn’t one we take lightly or without quite a lot of discussions about what is best and safest for all of us.” While ReedPop won’t be requiring masks or proof of vaccine at ECCC, Rogers writes “we strongly recommend the use of high-quality masks while at the show,” which, of course, means nothing.

Let me break down how those “discussions about what is best and safest for all of us” probably went down. On the one hand, requiring attendees to wear masks and prove they’re vaccinated would ensure that ReedPop is taking reasonable and effective steps to curb the spread of airborne illness and the risk that attendees will contract a life-threatening disease. On the other hand, some people don’t like wearing masks, and they think Bill Gates is a globalist lizard that put microchips in the vaccines. Also, you can hire fewer staff if you don’t need to check vaccine cards and enforce mask rules. So, you know, much to consider.

Rogers claims that ReedPop is changing the policy to align with King County’s current Health & Safety regulations, which it is absolutely under no obligation to do. As we’ve seen time and again throughout the pandemic, state and county health regulations are not designed to maximize safety and well-being of its citizens. They’re often (or always) influenced by political agendas and economic conditions. ECCC is a large-scale indoor event where thousands of people will congregate for multiple days in a row, and ReedPop should be taking every precaution possible to protect attendees. Rogers wrote “Everyone is approaching getting back to events differently, we all have our own circumstances and varying levels of comfort.” By ‘circumstances’, I assume she means that some people will die if they catch Covid and some won’t. By levels of comfort, she must be referring to the fact that some people don’t give a shit about that fact. Those are the people this decision caters to.

Conventions like ECCC play a crucial role in the comic industry. Not only are the social events for fans to get together, cosplay, and celebrate their fandom, but it’s also an important to writers and artists as a source of both networking and income. Comic creators travel the country attending conventions to sell art, promote their books, meet their fans, and pitch themselves to publishers and potential collaborators. This decision not only puts people at unnecessary risk, it also impedes the business of creators. These are freelance writers and artists who often do not have the benefit of healthcare or paid time off to recover from an illness. They can’t afford to put themselves at risk of getting sick. Despite ostensibly being the entire reason to have a comic convention in the first place, ReedPop is casting them aside, along with anyone else who doesn't have a laissez-faire attitude about catching Covid.

This is an extraordinarily last-minute decision. The convention is in less than eight weeks, and most attendees have already taken time off work, purchased tickets, booked plane tickets, and reserved hotel rooms. If you don’t want to go now that the policy has changed, ReedPop is offering refunds on tickets from now until July 9. If you’ve already spent hundreds on plane tickets and hotels, you’re on your own. Suffice to say, it is unacceptable to change a policy like this after tickets have been sold. It would be one thing to announce a change in policy for next year, but people have already made commitments to go and invested in far more than just the price of the ticket.

ReedPop also organizes PAX West, which takes place at the same convention center just two weeks after ECCC. As of right now, the health and safety guidelines on PAX West’s website still state that masks and vaccine cards will be required, but as we’ve just seen, the policy can change at any time. I hope that the big game publishers will put pressure on ReedPop to keep the mask and vaccine requirements. The threat of a big company like Gearbox or Nintendo pulling out may scare Reedpop into doing the right thing here, as depressing a notion as that is.

If the callousness and inhumanity of all of this hasn’t quite set in with you, understand that ReedPop has already accepted that casualties are just part of doing business now. In May, a ReedPop employee working as an enforcer at PAX East in Boston named Dawn Wood died from Covid. She and her sister were both exposed sometime during the weekend of the event, and a week later Wood was gone. ReedPop should be doing everything it possibly can to protect its employees, its attendees, and the creators that make its events possible, but as Kristina Rogers said, we all have our own varying levels of comfort.

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