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Diabetes events around the country are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Getty Images

We’re in uncharted waters with the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and everything’s evolving by the day and the hour — as America and the rest of the world grapple with this historic public health emergency.

Within our own diabetes community, concerns begin with the impact the novel coronavirus can have on people with diabetes and other underlying health conditions.

Beyond that, there’s the larger impact on healthcare: from hospital emergency plans and canceled routine appointments to new reliance on telehealth and remote patient care — and of course how life is coming to a grinding halt in many ways, with cancellations and shutdowns becoming the new normal.

On March 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that all events with 50 or more people be canceled for 8 weeks.

Bottom line: The national priority right now is limiting physical contact to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19.

The Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition (DDRC), made up of leading diabetes orgs, issued an update on March 12, saying it has moved into phase 2 of its action plan in response to COVID-19.

That involves monitoring briefings from federal agencies and “working to understand the direct impact on the lives of those with diabetes.”

“As the entire world faces one of the worst pandemics of recent times, we have to make sure the diabetes community is educated and prepared for any possible issues,” said Mila Ferrer of Beyond Type 1, a DDRC member group. “The DDRC’s mission is to ensure people living with diabetes have the necessary resources and information before, during, and after any disaster.”

Below, we’ve compiled a list of diabetes events affected by this public health crisis. We also include some commentary about how effective new travel restrictions are in terms of mitigating transmission.

Please keep in mind that this is a fluid situation that’s changing constantly, so we’ll update this information as often as possible.

American Diabetes Association (ADA)

As of press time, the country’s largest established diabetes organization had NOT yet canceled its annual Scientific Sessions conference scheduled for June 12–16 in Chicago.

That event brings in roughly 13,000 researchers and experts from around the world, with representation from at least 115 countries.

We are told that ADA is focused on COVID-19 mitigation preparation and planning.

“We are being cautious, conservative, and consistent because the health and safety of our volunteers, advocates, employees, community partners and friends is our top priority,” spokeswoman Sabrena Pringle tells DiabetesMine.

In addition:

  • Any ADA events that had been scheduled to kick off between March 9 and May 1 will be postponed until further notice, including local expo health fairs, luncheons, and Tour de Cure bike rides planned in varying cities and states.
  • Even before the Trump administration’s European travel ban, the ADA had issued its own ban on domestic and international travel for all employees. The ADA made this decision “out of an abundance of caution and to reduce exposure to confined spaces for our team, many of whom live with diabetes.”
  • All ADA employees across the country have also been given the option to work remotely until further notice.

The ADA points to its online resources for COVID-19 for more information.

Endocrine Society

The national organization of endocrinologists with a focus in diabetes and other endocrine-related health issues has canceled their annual meeting, scheduled for March 28–31 in San Francisco.

This is considered a major medical conference. It brings in around 9,500 people from more than 100 countries. Here’s the full statement from the organization’s leadership.

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE)

As of March 16, this big endocrinology conference, planned for May 7, is still on in Washington, D.C.

This event typically brings in more than 2,000 people, including endos, certified diabetes educators, and other healthcare professionals. The latest updates on the conference can be found here.

Children with Diabetes: Friends for Life

The Children with Diabetes (CWD) organization has canceled its regional Friends for Life conference in Indianapolis planned in late March.

With about 150 registered attendees (short of the originally expected 200 to 225 registrations due to coronavirus concerns), CWD leadership tells us they’re shifting some portions of that event to a virtual online component.

They also continue watching this pandemic emergency to determine whether any changes may be in order for the big national Friends for Life Orlando conference that brings in thousands of families to Florida each July.

JDRF

This national type 1 advocacy organization is following the state and federal recommendations and is shifting some to a virtual online format. As of March 17, that involves postponing or redesigning all in-person events through June 30.

For example, JDRF’s annual Government Day, which includes approximately 500 meetings on Capitol Hill, was scheduled for the end of March 2020. Those are now being shifting to virtual meetings rather than in-person meetups in Washington, D.C., and we’re told the exact date is TBD.

The TypeOneNation Summits that take place around the country are governed by local chapters. Spokesman CJ Volpe says that each of those groups is responsible for making its own decision in consultation with national experts as well as their own.

Several of these events took place as planned in February and early March, but by mid-month they were being postponed throughout the country.

“The safety and well-being of the T1D community is the top priority of JDRF during the COVID-19 pandemic,” CEO Dr. Aaron Kowalski said in a statement, noting that the JDRF is also providing information on steps people with T1D should take to protect themselves.

“As we move forward together during this challenging time, we will emerge as a stronger community — and will be closer than ever to achieving our mission to create a world without T1D.”

Connected in Motion

The Canada-based diabetes org focused on outdoor activities issued a statement on how it’s closely watching the pandemic and will make decisions as needed.

“As we continue to develop our 2020 plans with the health of our community at the forefront of our minds, we are excited at the challenge of providing the connection, support, and education of Slipstream (events) through new creative and innovative ways,” executive director Jen Hanson said. “CIM has no programs on the calendar before May and have not canceled any programming.”

“That being said, in general, please know that if a program is canceled or if circumstances require, CIM is committed to providing you a refund for that program and an alternative option to participate virtually that will provide an opportunity for community building, connection, and education through innovative and creative means,” she added.

Taking Control of Your Diabetes (TCOYD)

This organization holds a lineup of educational diabetes conferences around the country.

Two have been postponed: a summit planned for March 28 in Novi, Michigan, that was set to bring together several hundred people, has been postponed until Oct. 3, 2020.; another in Omaha, Nebraska, that was set for early May is now rescheduled for Aug. 1.

After that, the next event planned for late May in Houston, Texas, remains TBD depending on how things evolve.

Diabetes Research Institute (DRI)

This Florida-based institute has canceled both of its upcoming signature events: Out of the Kitchen planned for April 6 and DREAMS in the City in May. Both are expected to return in 2021.

Medscape also has a running list of medical conferences and events being canceled and postponed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The list is continuously expanding, and we expect to see more diabetes conferences and events added as we move forward.

The federal government is now urging people not to gather in groups of more than 10 people, to stay away from bars and restaurants and not to travel unless absolutely necessary. While the official guidance is only for 15 days at this point, experts are saying the coronavirus pandemic might not fully wind down until July or August.

Travel is now restricted to European countries, the UK and Ireland, and several other high-risk locations around the globe. Ripple effects are certainly top of mind for many people, not only those who’ve had to scrap or reschedule business travel and vacations.

Do these restrictions work?

Short answer: Yes, they do.

A new study published March 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America says so.

That study, led by Yale University researchers, examined the impact of travel restrictions and border control measures that were put in place internationally in late January 2020.

Specifically, China enacted lockdowns, and several countries — including the United States — instituted airport screening measures and travel restrictions to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Study authors estimated that those measures reduced the number of SARS-CoV-2 cases by more than 70 percent and reduced the estimated daily exportation rate by more than 80 percent during the first 3 1/2 weeks of implementation.

Notably, about 64 percent of the exported cases were people not showing symptoms at the time they’d arrived at their destinations. Without those restrictions, the amount of cases would be much higher.

“While travel restrictions and border controls likely delayed the spread of COVID-19, they are unlikely to contain the outbreak on their own,” the study abstract points out.

“Additional containment measures, such as sufficiently rapid contact tracing within the epicenter of the outbreak and travelers’ self-reporting of virus exposure and self-isolation, could be important for limiting global disease spread,” the study authors said.

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