Thousands flocked to Miami last week for the Bitcoin 2021 conference, said to be the largest-ever cryptocurrency conference.
Now, just days later, some conference attendees have posted on social media saying they’ve tested positive for COVID-19.
Luke Martin, who hosts a Bitcoin podcast, tweeted Thursday:
“Last weekend in Miami was incredible…surrounded by smart, humble, hard-working, and genuinely good people. Love you all. I also feel like I got hit by a truck with a pinch of COVID. So I’m catching up on sleep, water, and food. Back to work tomorrow.”
Larry Cermak, research director at the Block, a cryptocurrency news and information website, tweeted that he has not fallen ill but that “everyone” he was with while in Miami did.
Eric Wall, chief investment officer at investment firm Arcane Assets, said he tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the conference and that he was “not vaccinated,” before making his account private, Vice reported.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who spoke live at the event, told the Miami Herald Friday that no one he knows tested positive after the conference and that his office is aware of “a number of unconfirmed tweets” about people falling ill with COVID during the conference.
“Based on public data from hospitals and other watchdogs, we have no reason to believe the conference was a ‘Super Spreader,’ ” Suarez said in a statement sent via text message. “At this point, with the information we know, this characterization of the event is not only unfair but also irresponsible — Miami played host to over 50k people throughout the weekend while the conference sold 12k tickets.”
Conference attendees were not required to wear masks or be vaccinated, and no temperature checks were done at entrance gates. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in May suspended all COVID-19 orders issued across the state, including mask mandates, and left it up to businesses to decide their own rules on whether they wanted to require masks or other COVID safety measures.
Businesses cannot require people to show proof of vaccination, however, as that goes against Florida’s new law.
A representative for conference organizer BTC Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for host Mana Wynwood declined to comment, saying it was deferring to local health officials on the matter. The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County did not respond to the Miami Herald’s request for comment.
The conference did have the makings for a potential COVID outbreak, with at least 12,000 people, most maskless, circulating through an enclosed space. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends people avoid large events and gatherings. Some people who attended might have been vaccinated, but it’s unknown how many.
“It’s really impossible to say that somebody was infected in Miami,” said Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor and chair of Florida International University’s Department of Epidemiology.
People can get COVID from any infected person, anywhere, and the official conference was surrounded by numerous unofficial events around the city.
“You could make some guesses based on when their symptoms started,” Trepka said, but it would be difficult to pinpoint if the person went to multiple places where they could have been exposed.
“People should know that any travel you do now, any big events you do now, there’s a certain level of risk,” because COVID is still circulating in the community, Trepka said.
Health departments usually rely on contact tracers, who act like virus detectives, to help track down newly infected people and those with whom they may have had close contact to isolate them and stop the disease from spreading. Contact tracing can also help health officials figure out where a potential outbreak is occurring.
What’s critical at this point is that anyone who tested positive isolate and that their close contacts quarantine, unless they are fully vaccinated, Trepka said.
“The issue is that I think people, because they so want to believe that COVID is gone, believe that COVID is gone,” Trepka said. “You know, we are still getting cases every day in this county, in this state, in this country.”
Originally slated for Los Angeles, Bitcoin 2021 organizers announced in March that they would move the conference to Miami amid concerns about California’s pandemic restrictions — and to capitalize on the city’s momentum in the tech industry.
“Here in the City of Miami we take the adherence to CDC and Florida DOH guidelines very seriously as our community navigates the current stage of the pandemic,” reads Suarez statement. “We’re in constant communication with the health authorities and will continue monitoring this situation and we hope everyone who visited Miami is healthy and doing fine.”
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