UPDATES:


Self-isolation period ends after #NICAR20

Updated March 23, 2:30 p.m.

The 14-day period of self-isolation due to the novel coronavirus has ended for the two #NICAR20 attendees who tested positive for COVID-19, as well as for IRE staff.

The first attendee who reported a presumptively positive test still has not heard from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The attendee has fully recovered and did not need any medical attention or medicine, including over-the-counter drugs, at any point since the test result. The attendee’s spouse tested negative and continues to show no symptoms. The state public health department released the attendee last week from self-quarantine, and the attendee was reunited with their family Sunday night.

The second attendee also recovered at home and has gone back to work (remotely).

IRE staff also have been cleared from their voluntary self-isolation, which was taken as a safety precaution. Five IRE staff members were tested for COVID-19 at the University of Missouri, where IRE is based. All tests came back negative. Other IRE staff members, who live in six other states, had no symptoms and were unable to be tested.

In addition, two University of Missouri professors and 25 Mizzou students who attended the New Orleans conference also were tested for the novel coronavirus. All tested negative.

To IRE’s knowledge, no other #NICAR20 attendee has tested positive for COVID-19. As of today (March 23), IRE has not been contacted by the CDC or any state health department with further information or instructions connected to the coronavirus pandemic.


Second NICAR20 attendee tests presumptively positive for novel coronavirus

Updated March 16, 1:30 p.m.

A second NICAR20 attendee has received a presumptively positive test result for the COVID-19 virus, IRE learned today (March 16). The attendee feels better and expects a full recovery.

The attendee traveled from inside the United States to New Orleans for the conference. They arrived Wednesday evening (March 4) and left Monday (March 9). The attendee stayed at the conference hotel but did not use the pool or fitness center. IRE has sent separate notification to people who participated in a pre-registration hands-on data class with the individual.

On Saturday (March 7), the attendee developed a persistent cough, shortness of breath and nasal congestion. The attendee saw a doctor on Tuesday morning (March 10) and received a diagnosis of pneumonia. On Thursday (March 12), the attendee received a positive test result for the novel coronavirus. The attendee was told that the Centers for Disease Control would contact IRE. When it was clear that had not happened, the attendee reached out directly to IRE on Monday afternoon (March 16).

Since the COVID-19 diagnosis, the attendee’s state health department has notified anyone they had close contact with during the conference. Based on the onset of symptoms, the attendee could have contracted the virus before or during the conference. Symptoms can appear within two to 14 days of exposure, and in some cases do not appear at all, according to the CDC.

The attendee has asked to remain private. To protect those privacy rights, IRE will not release the person’s conference schedule or cross-check it against other attendee schedules. In addition, IRE doesn’t want to give anyone a false sense of security. Given what we’ve all learned recently about COVID-19, it seems likely that far more people across the country have been infected with it than any of us realized. For those of us who traveled through airports, sat on planes and interacted with lots of people before, during and after the NICAR conference, there’s a chance that we encountered someone along the way who was carrying the novel coronavirus.

If you have concerns or questions about your own health, the CDC recommends that you contact your medical provider, explain the situation and seek professional medical advice.

The first attendee with a presumptive positive test for COVID-19 is still awaiting word from the CDC on whether their result has been confirmed.

Please see our FAQs for further information and guidance.


Spouse of attendee tests negative for coronavirus

Updated March 12, 1 p.m.

The spouse of the NICAR20 attendee with a presumptively positive COVID-19 test result has tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

The attendee is still awaiting word from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on whether the initial test result has been verified at the federal level. That process can take up to a week. The attendee had the test performed on Monday (March 9) and received the presumptive positive result the next day. The test was then sent to CDC for confirmation.

The attendee is feeling fine with minor symptoms similar to a head cold. The spouse did not attend NICAR20 or travel to New Orleans.


NICAR20 attendee tests presumptively positive for coronavirus

Updated March 11, 8 p.m.

A person who attended the NICAR20 conference in New Orleans last week tested presumptively positive March 10 with COVID-19. 

This attendee has mild symptoms and is expected to make a full recovery. They are self-quarantining at home for 14 days, as recommended by health professionals.

The test has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control for confirmation. Until the test result is confirmed by the CDC, which can take up to a week, it is considered a presumptive positive. IRE is notifying conference attendees now so that individuals can make their own decisions on how best to proceed.

The attendee traveled from within the United States to the conference in New Orleans and was present from Thursday (March 5) until Saturday afternoon (March 7). Based on the onset of the limited symptoms, they could have contracted the virus either before, during or after the conference. Symptoms can appear within two to 14 days of exposure, and in some cases do not appear at all.

The attendee has been reaching out today to people they had close contact with during the conference. In addition, IRE is notifying individuals who participated in a pre-registered hands-on class with the attendee.

IRE has consulted with the CDC for guidance. The CDC recommends conference attendees contact their health care provider to let them know that they attended a large gathering with someone who has a laboratory-positive test for COVID-19. Based on your health history and whether you have any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough or shortness of breath), your doctor may want to see you and/or conduct a coronavirus test. Protocols and testing availability vary from state to state.

The CDC also suggests checking with your local and state health officials and employer for guidance on whether you should work from home or take other measures to limit contact with others. If you develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath, please contact your health care provider immediately.

If you do become ill, please contact IRE so that we can notify public health officials and other attendees as necessary. Please email IRE Executive Director Doug Haddix (doug@ire.org). IRE will respect your privacy.

For further information, the CDC recommends this particular guidance page as well as the more general COVID-19 page online.

IRE will send further updates as warranted. For questions, please email info@ire.org.

In the meantime, we are starting an FAQ section here. It will be updated as other questions or issues arise.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

These FAQs will be updated frequently as more information is available

If I attended NICAR20, should I self-quarantine? Should my family self-quarantine?

If you have concerns or questions about your own health or your family’s health, the CDC recommends that you contact your medical provider, explain the situation and seek professional medical advice. For further information about symptoms and a host of other related issues, the CDC recommends this particular guidance page as well as the more general COVID-19 page online.

 

Will IRE report any other presumptive positive COVID-19 test results among attendees?

IRE will notify attendees and the public if the organization learns of any other presumptive positive cases of COVID-19. As of now, IRE is aware of one case that has tested presumptive positive and is awaiting final determination by the CDC, which can take up to a week. If you become ill, please contact IRE Executive Director Doug Haddix (doug@ire.org) so that we can notify public health officials and other attendees. IRE will respect your privacy.

 

When did IRE know about the presumptively positive test, and what steps did staff take?

IRE was notified by the individual late Tuesday afternoon (March 10). Upon learning of the case and discussing it directly with the individual involved, Executive Director Doug Haddix notified the IRE Board of Directors at 6:30 p.m. EDT. IRE staff quickly convened in a conference call to come up with a communication plan for attendees and the whole IRE community. Staff worked with public health officials, including the CDC, to gather accurate guidance for attendees. It took more than 90 minutes to connect with a representative of the CDC who could offer specific guidance and instruction for IRE. About 8:30 p.m. EDT, a detailed email was sent to conference attendees and others present for NICAR20. IRE also posted a public statement on its website, and tweeted out a detailed thread about the situation. Those who participated in a pre-registration, hands-on class with the attendee were also notified by IRE staff via email Tuesday evening. IRE is continuing to communicate updates and information at ire.org/coronavirus and on social media.

 

How is IRE staff operating in the wake of the news?

On Tuesday evening, all IRE full-time staff and part-time student employees were instructed to work from home, practice social distancing and monitor their own health until further guidance. Most IRE employees work remotely and live in various locations across the United States. Four IRE full-time staff work at IRE headquarters at the Missouri School of Journalism. IRE has been in close communication with the University of Missouri, which issued a notification to the campus community and agreed with IRE’s decision to have full-time and student employees work from home until further notice.

 

Will IRE release the list of sessions, classes and social events attended by the person with the presumably positive coronavirus test?

No. NICAR20 attendees attended numerous sessions, classes and receptions, in addition to having conversations in hallways, at restaurants and during other social interactions. Having a precise calendar of the attendee’s movements would not provide other attendees with any sense of whether they actually had close contact with the person. In addition, releasing someone’s conference itinerary could make it possible to identify the individual. So, to maintain the individual’s right to privacy, particularly involving a medical issue, IRE has decided not to provide a detailed schedule for one attendee or answer inquiries about a particular session, class or event — with one exception. Those who participated in a pre-registration, hands-on class with the attendee have been notified by IRE. The attendee has reached out directly to everyone else they had close contact with during the conference. Another reason we’re not releasing the person’s schedule or cross-checking it against other attendee schedules is because we don’t want to give anyone a false sense of security. Given what we’ve all learned recently about COVID-19, it seems likely that far more people across the country have been infected with it than any of us realized. For those of us who traveled through airports, sat on planes and interacted with lots of people before, during and after the NICAR conference, there’s a chance that we encountered someone along the way who was carrying the novel coronavirus. If you have concerns or questions about your own health, the CDC recommends that you contact your medical provider, explain the situation and seek professional medical advice.

 

Can IRE say what city or part of the country the individual traveled from?

No. To protect the individual’s privacy, IRE will not provide the specific location from which the person traveled. The attendee did travel to New Orleans from within the U.S.

 

Did the individual stay at the conference hotel?

Yes, but did not use the gym or the pool.

 

Is IRE helping the individual reach out to others who had direct contact?

Yes. IRE remains in close contact with the individual, who already has reached out to people with whom they’ve had close contact. IRE has notified those who participated in a pre-registration, hands-on class with the attendee.

 

If I don’t receive an email about shared workshop attendance, does that confirm I was not in a paid workshop with the individual? Can you let me know which paid workshop this person attended?

All attendees in the pre-registered hands-on workshop the individual participated in were notified via email Tuesday night. If you did not receive an email specifically about this class, you did not attend the workshop with the individual. (This email was separate from the email sent to all conference attendees about the presumptive positive test.)

 

Why didn’t IRE cancel the conference before it began?

Shortly before the start of NICAR20 on March 5, IRE assessed the situation and decided to proceed with the New Orleans conference as planned. Government and health authorities in New Orleans, Louisiana and the federal government had not issued any advisories about potentially canceling conferences or limits to travel. No cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Louisiana when the conference began. Prior to the conference, IRE told attendees about safety and hygiene protocols including hand-washing and the availability of hand sanitizer and computer wipes.

 

What is happening with IRE trainings in March and April?

All IRE training events in March and April have been postponed. Staff made the decision to postpone spring Watchdog Workshops before learning of the COVID-19 case. Registration fees will be refunded for those who already have signed up for a training. IRE staff are contacting those registered for postponed events and will update members as trainings are rescheduled.

 

What’s the status of the IRE conference in June?

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the #IRE20 national conference has been rescheduled for Aug. 27-30. The conference will be held in the same location: the Gaylord National hotel in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. Previously, the conference had been set for June 18-21.