CDC Rules Anime NYC Convention Not a Covid Superspreader Event

Costumed (and masked) attendees on an escalator at Anime NYC in November 2021.

Costumed people attend Anime NYC at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City on November 20, 2021.
Photo: Kena Betancur / AFP (Getty Images)

The Center for Disease Control released a study yesterday that the 2021 Anime NYC convention was not a superspreader event, despite the attendance of one of the first known people in the US to have been infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. But this was not just luck — the event had several measures in place to minimize infection, which means it can be used as a model for other fan conventions in the future.

The reason Anime NYC was suspected to be a superspreader (even assumed to be, one might say) is because Omicron is significantly more infectious than previous iterations of covid-19, and more than 53,000 anime fans came to the con, held in New York City at the Javits Center. The CDC says the event’s “good air filtration, widespread vaccination, and indoor masking” helped minimize the spread of the virus. Additionally, Anime NYC required attendees to have at least one vaccination dose, while the convention center used HEPA filters in its ventilation.

According to the New York Times, “The share of attendee tests that came back positive was similar to the share of coronavirus tests that were positive across New York City around the same time, the CDC said. What’s more, the few positive samples that were genetically sequenced were largely of the Delta variant, not Omicron. And conventiongoers who became infected were more likely than those who tested negative to have gone to bars, nightclubs, or karaoke clubs. ”

However, do not go packing your bags for San Diego Comic-Con just yet. There are still a lot of additional factors that likely kept infection rates down. For instance, the CDC reported that had Omicron been more prevalent around the city at the time, things likely would not have gone so well. And, of course, Omicron is far more prevalent now across the country.

Still, this means Anime NYC could stand as a model for other conventions to follow in the future in order for relatively large groups of fans to come together and celebrate comics, anime, gaming, and more in relative safety. There’s obviously no timeline in sight where 160,000 people are all going to crowd into the San Diego Convention Center anytime soon, but man, it would be nice to hang out with some fellow nerds in person again eventually.

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