JAVMA News logo

June 01, 2020

AVMA Convention canceled because of pandemic

Association has held a convention every year since 1863 with only three exceptions
Published on May 13, 2020

Updated July 6, 2020

AVMA Convention 2020 in San Diego has been canceled by the AVMA Board of Directors because of public health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cancellation includes all in-person meetings and related events, including the Cannabis Symposium, that had been scheduled to be held between July 27-Aug. 4. The Board determined the convention would present too great a risk to the health and safety of attendees, vendors, exhibitors, volunteers, and AVMA staff members.

San Diego Convention Center in 2012
AVMA Convention 2020 will no longer take place in the San Diego Convention Center because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured here is the building in 2012 during the AVMA’s only previous convention in the city. (Photo by Dr. Kim May)

“Though this decision wasn’t easy to make, we believe it’s the right one,” wrote Drs. John Howe, AVMA president; Rena Carlson, AVMA Board chair; and Janet Donlin, AVMA CEO in a May 1 email message to AVMA members.

“We know that many people plan well ahead for the AVMA Convention, and we wanted to let you know of our decision as soon as possible to allow you to make necessary changes to your schedule and travel plans.”

At press time, convention organizers were exploring virtual conference options, including potentially live continuing education sessions and a virtual AVMA House of Delegates meeting. Details were still being finalized.

The AVMA is issuing refunds for registration fees. Any hotel reservations made through the official AVMA block are being canceled by the AVMA.

Those who have booked travel but not yet registered and those who booked their hotel outside the official AVMA block should follow up with their travel agent, air carrier, or hotel directly. Any questions can be directed to conventionatavma [dot] org or 800-248-2862. More information is available on the AVMA Convention website.

California had about 55,000 confirmed human cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection and 2,216 deaths as of May 4, according to Johns Hopkins University.

On April 14, California Gov. Gavin Newsom was quoted in news reports saying, “The prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best until we get to herd immunity and we get to a vaccine. So large-scale events that bring in hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of strangers all together across every conceivable difference, health and otherwise, is not in the cards based upon our current guidelines and current expectations.”

Gov. Newsom said mass gatherings are unlikely in June, July, and August.

The AVMA has held a convention every year since 1863 with only three exceptions. The association failed to hold an annual meeting in 1874 because of a mistake on notices about the date of the meeting. In 1914, the meeting was scheduled for December in New Orleans but was canceled because of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. And the AVMA canceled its 1945 meeting to comply with a governmental request that all organizations do so to relieve transportation problems during World War II; the AVMA House of Representatives did hold a meeting.

In 1943, although the annual convention was not canceled, only 700 attendees met in St. Louis for general sessions with no entertainment or commercial displays because “section work was abolished to make way for the special problems of the war,” according to previous reporting in JAVMA. Despite wartime travel restrictions, attendance at the 1944 meeting in Chicago exceeded 1,500, including 998 veterinarians.

The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has resulted in the cancellation of many veterinary-related meetings this year, including state VMA conferences, the Student AVMA symposium this past March at Cornell University, and the Veterinary Innovation Summit this past April at Texas A&M University.

AVMA Convention 2021 will be held in Minneapolis.


Correction: An earlier version of this article made a mistake about the date of when a previous convention was canceled. It was the 1874 meeting of the AVMA that was canceled because of a mistake on notices about the date of the meeting.