COVID-19 and WisCon 2023

On this page you’ll find more information about our current health and safety plans for WisCon 2023, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our post-con 2022 COVID-19 report is available here.

Mask Policy

All WisCon attendees age 2 and older must wear a well-fitting mask that covers their mouth, nose, and chin at all times while in public areas of the hotel and in convention spaces. There are limited exceptions for those eating or drinking, described below.

Cloth or surgical masks meet this requirement, though we strongly encourage members to wear N95 masks, or masks with similar fit and filtration quality (KN95, etc.).

If your mask does not fit properly, you will be asked to adjust it; those who refuse to do so, or refuse to wear a mask entirely, will be asked to leave the convention, and may be subject to a ban.

We recognize that masks present an accessibility barrier: they are difficult to wear for some, and make lip reading impossible. If you cannot tolerate wearing a mask, we encourage you to attend online.

In-person panelists will be required to keep masks on during their panels; we are investigating the possibility of sourcing masks with clear panels to facilitate lip reading, but even if these are available we are not currently planning to make them obligatory for panelists. If you anticipate that the mask requirement will increase your need for CART captioning, you can request captioning and/or ASL using our Google Form. You can also contact our Access department directly (access@wiscon.net).

Eating and Drinking

With limited exceptions, eating and drinking will be confined to the hotel bar and restaurant. For those unfamiliar with the Concourse hotel, the hotel restaurant is open to the lobby of the hotel, and the entrance to the hotel bar is proximate to the elevator bank.

We recognize that some of our members may need to eat and drink while participating in programming, to manage health needs. For this reason, we will allow members to remove their masks for long enough to take a bite of food or sip of a beverage—but masks must be replaced between bites or sips, and absolutely nobody should talk without a mask on.

We will not be policing people’s health requirements with respect to this policy. However, we ask all members to be considerate of others when considering whether this exception applies to you, and refrain from eating or drinking in public indoor spaces if you can do so comfortably.

The Con Suite will look very different this year than it has in the past. We will not be providing hot meals, and there will not be a space where all WisCon members can eat food taken from the Con Suite. There will be a variety of pre-packaged grab and go items available; members staying in the hotel will be asked to take Con Suite items back to their rooms, and we are looking at options for providing a space where members not staying in the hotel can eat.

Vaccination

Everyone attending the convention—including members, vendors, and any contractors—must be up to date on their COVID vaccines when they arrive at Registration to pick up their con badge.  (See “Stay Up to Date with Your COVID-19 vaccines.”)

Since COVID vaccines and bivalent boosters for children ages 6 months and older are recommended by the CDC, we will allow fully vaccinated children ages 6 months and older at WisCon 2023.

You are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines when you have completed a COVID-19 vaccine primary series and received the most recent booster dose recommended by CDC, which is one bivalent booster. Registration will be checking vaccination cards based on these CDC recommendations.

For those coming to WisCon from other countries: we will accept proof that you have received any vaccine recognized by the WHO. More information on WHO recognition of COVID vaccines can be found on their website.

Testing

We will not require members to test for COVID-19 either before or during the convention. However, we do encourage members to test prior to WisCon if you are able to do so, and to also consider bringing a supply of rapid tests with you if you have access to them. Information about test availability in Madison will be available at the convention.

Information about testing sites in Madison can be found on the Public Health Madison & Dane County website: https://publichealthmdc.com/coronavirus/testing/testing-sites.

We will also have a limited number of rapid tests available to distribute to WisCon members; if you believe you have been exposed and need access to a test, send an email to covidsafety@wiscon.net; tests can be delivered within the hotel, or picked up at the hotel entrance.

Needless to say, if you test positive for COVID-19 during WisCon (or prior to the convention without enough time to fully recover) you are expected to self-isolate whether or not you exhibit symptoms, and you may not enter convention spaces or congregate with other convention members. We also expect members to refrain from entering convention spaces if they have symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 and do not have another cause (e.g. pre-existing seasonal allergies). Our COVID-19 Team will coordinate with anyone who reports a positive case, to ensure members have the support they need to self-isolate.

Gathering during a pandemic requires mutual trust. Anyone who knowingly participates in the in-person convention despite a positive test or COVID-19 symptoms violates that trust.

There will be a form available to report any positive COVID-19 cases during or after the convention, and we will share information about any positive cases with all in-person members (anonymized, unless a member asks us to share their identity publicly). If you are not able to participate in WisCon this year due to COVID-19 (or for any other reason) your membership can be refunded or deferred to next year.

Air filtration

To improve the safety of convention spaces, WisCon has acquired air filtration units for most rooms in use. While these may be turned off during panels or readings (depending on noise levels), they will be run during all programming breaks to help ensure “turnover” of filtered air in each space.

How these plans may change

The WisCon ConCom and the SF3 Board continue to monitor the ongoing COVID-19 situation, both in general and specifically in Madison.

If there is a public health order in Dane County (where Madison is located) that prohibits events of WisCon’s size from taking place indoors or in-person, we will pivot to fully online programming, events, and spaces. In this event, we plan to maintain our full schedule of panels, readings, and other programming, to the extent that panelists are able to participate virtually.

A note on the hotel and Madison

WisCon members are not the only people who move through the hotel over the Memorial Day long weekend, and this will be especially true with a smaller in-person convention.

WisCon cannot enforce mask wearing by non-members. The hotel does not require vaccination of guests or employees. These policies are not within WisCon’s power to change.

If you would like to stay up to date on the status of COVID-19 cases and vaccination in Madison and Dane County, you may be interested in the Public Health Madison & Dane County COVID Dashboard.

If you have questions about our COVID-19 safety policies or planning, you can email covidsafety@wiscon.net.