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San Diego Convention Center reopens for in-person conferences Sunday

KFMB San Diego logo KFMB San Diego 8/2/2021 Allison Royal
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Conventions are back in San Diego for the first time in about a year and a half. The San Diego Convention Center welcomed conferences back to America’s Finest City on Sunday, Aug. 1 starting with SPIE.

One of those visitors checking in is Lucas Anderson from Utah.

“I’ve been to a couple of virtual conferences, which weren’t nearly as much fun,” said Anderson.

Anderson said this was also his first time flying in an airplane since 2020.

”I’d say a lot of different emotions,” said Anderson. “[I’m] both very excited and a little nervous.”

Several speakers are set to give in-person talks this week at the organization’s first in-person conference in about a year and a half.

”My talk is basically on active thermal control for small satellites,” said Anderson.

These scientists are discussing how technology makes conveniences, like barcodes, a reality.

“We’re a bunch of optics and photogenics geeks, so the favorite phrase is ‘Wow. You’re three dimensional,’” said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford with a laugh on Sunday.

There are some rules in place, which Rochford said comply with the County of San Diego. Convention Center and SPIE staff members are all asked to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. Vaccinated guests can chose to wear a mask if they want or go without. Then masks are required for non-vaccinated guests. However, it’s all based on the honor system. Guests are not asked for proof of vaccination upon entering.

There’s also minimal contact with check in, more social distancing, and virtual payment. This conference only has 1,400. However, an event of 5,000 people or would call for stricter protocols, like asking guests to either get vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19.

”This first event that is back in the building is not the size of an event like Comicon or Esri, but I think that’s helpful for us to begin hosting events at this scale before we move into hosting the larger events,” said Maren Dougherty, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the San Diego Convention Center.

Still, after over a year of empty hallways and Zoom calls, it’s exciting to welcome back guests to San Diego, face-to-face.

“Zoom can’t really do that,” said Jim Oschmann, the former president of SPIE.

WATCH RELATED: City and county leaders announce the San Diego Convention Center reopening for events (Jul 30, 2021)

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