(This information is accurate, to the best of our knowledge, through 12/28/2021. We reserve the right to update terms at any time.)
The annual Key West Literary Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program are unique and wonderful events. But in this time of pandemic, we want to be clear that these events also involve a degree of risk which can be significant for some individuals. The following information is being provided in order to help you understand characteristics of our events which may heighten your risk of contracting and/or spreading Covid-19. This is not intended to replace official public health guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or any state or county health department. When in doubt, you should defer to guidance issued by official agencies; and, in any case, your participation in any of our events is at your own risk.
First, the bad news:
Both the Seminar and the Writers’ Workshop Program meet current CDC definitions of a large gathering, and the agency advises that attending large gatherings increases your chance of being in close contact with people outside your household and being exposed to Covid-19. Additional risk factors to consider are the fact that Seminar and Workshop participants travel to Key West from all over the U.S. as well as some foreign countries, and that both are multi-day events with potentially sustained exposure to other individuals. According to CDC as of 12/20/2021, Key West and the Florida Keys (Monroe County) are an area of high community transmission of Covid-19 (transmission rates are measured as high, substantial, moderate, or low).
Now, the good news:
There are CDC-recommended steps that our participants have already taken and that we will take to mitigate the risks for those who choose to attend. With the benefit of vaccination and appropriate masking, many people have safely resumed activities that were enjoyed before the pandemic. We believe the Seminar and Workshop Program can also be resumed at this time, so long as a number of very important steps are taken. These are outlined in the following policies and guidelines:
Practices, Policies, and Guidelines
Outdoors vs. Indoors:
For our 2022 program, all events with 30 or more participants will be held outdoors. This includes the entirety of the annual Seminar, all receptions and social events, and all program-related evening programming. Most writers’ workshops will continue to be held in indoor classroom spaces, where masks will be universally required.
At the Seminar, the main seating area will be within a large, open-ended saddlespan tent with approximately 400 seats. The seating arrangement within the tent will be standard theater seating (i.e. not socially distanced). Socially-distanced seating will be provided in an open-air shaded area outside the tent, and there is ample area to set up a blanket or folding chair on the lawn, if you prefer.
Although Florida law prohibits us from requiring proof of vaccination in order to attend, we strongly urge anyone who is not vaccinated to opt-out of participating in this year’s events in exchange for a full refund. In September, we asked all Seminar and Workshop participants to anonymously and confidentially report their vaccination status. 80% of all participants responded to the survey, and 100% of responding audience members report that they are fully vaccinated. All persons registering after that date have voluntarily provided proof of vaccination. We can confidently state that your fellow Seminar and Workshop participants are more likely to be fully vaccinated than the average person.
The Sunday afternoon program is free and open to the public and we are not reviewing proof of vaccination or negative test results for this portion of the program. We strongly urge anyone who is not vaccinated NOT to attend this free program.
Vaccination is an extremely important factor in our ability to safely operate, and the more participants who are vaccinated, the lower the risk will be for all. According to CDC, vaccines are safe, effective, and reduce your risk of severe illness. Vaccines are highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, including against the Delta variant. Fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections from this variant appear to be infectious for a shorter period. CDC recommends that all individuals age 12 and older be vaccinated. According to CDC, vaccines are also expected to provide protections against the Omicron variant.
Our masking policy has been updated in light of the highly transmissible Omicron variant (12/28/2021). At the Seminar, masking will be required within any covered or tented area, even if open to the air on all sides, when you cannot maintain 6’ of distance between yourself and others. Additionally, masks are always required in the bookstore tent and when standing in line for book signings. Masks are also universally required for faculty and students in all indoor workshop classrooms.
CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission such as the Florida Keys, whether or not you are vaccinated, in order to maximize protection and prevent possibly spreading Covid-19 to others. In areas with high numbers of Covid-19 cases, CDC also recommends that you consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings. See current transmission data, per New York Times, for Monroe County here.)
Any person with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of the disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.), will be exempt from the requirement to wear a mask. This policy aligns with CDC exemptions to its mask requirement for public transportation. We will follow CDC guidance with respect to the narrow subset of persons who may claim a disability exemption.
Covid-19 may present with a variety of symptoms, some of which include: fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, or diarrhea. If you are experiencing any symptoms at the time of your event, we strongly urge you to stay home and request a full refund. Additionally, if you had close contact (within 6 feet of someone for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone who has Covid-19 within the 2 weeks preceding an event, we strongly urge you to get tested for Covid-19 and to stay home and request a full refund if you test positive.
If you think or know you had Covid-19, you may not participate in the Seminar or Workshop Program until: 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared and 24 hours have passed with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and other symptoms of Covid-19 are improving. If you tested positive with no symptoms, 10 days must elapse since you had a positive test. This policy is in line with CDC Quarantine and Isolation guidance.
For Seminar and/or Workshop participants, the 10-day isolation period advised by CDC means: If you think or know you had your first symptoms of Covid-19 after December 26, 2021, you may not participate in the Seminar. If you think or know you had your first symptoms of Covid-19 after December 30, 2021, you may not participate in the Workshop Program.
Additionally, anyone who is experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, who tests positive, or who had close contact with someone who has Covid-19 is eligible for a full refund at any time. (Otherwise, see our general refund and cancellation policy.)
What if it rains?
We have moved programming outdoors this year in order to reduce the risks of Covid-19 transmission. A large saddlespan tent will provide protection from the elements, however there is still a small risk that inclement weather will present conditions that may be uncomfortable for some participants. There are no alternate indoor venues in case of inclement weather. There will be no refunds in case of rain or other weather-related issues. We thank you for understanding and for helping us to distribute the risk of bad weather.