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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Gaming events are slowly resuming as vaccinations roll out and COVID cases drop. But discrepancies between how different organizers choose to enforce safety protocols are forcing some attendees to drop out.

Why it matters: For attendees who might be immunocompromised or have loved ones who are, events still pose a significant risk.

  • The delta variant, which is said to be twice as infectious, is quickly becoming the dominant strain.
  • PAX West is the first annual gaming events to return with an in-person presence, but organizers will neither require attendees to be vaccinated or present a negative COVID test.

Press outlets like Fanbyte have decided not to send staff to the event.

  • In a statement issued on July 7, Fanbyte brand editor Nicholas Grayson wrote that they "do not feel that it is safe to make the trip to Seattle."
  • “While we would love to spend time with each other and our peers in-person for the first time in over a year, concerns for our team’s health and, frankly, the public good take priority,” Grayson wrote.
  • Polygon editor-in-chief Chris Plante told Axios that the site would not require its team to attend any conference with this policy because "their health matters far more than a few stories about video games."
  • Kotaku editor-in-chief Patricia Hernandez told Axios that the site "will keep monitoring the situation and will likely not officially attend events until it is completely safe to do so."
  • "We're committed to following both CDC and local guidelines as circumstances continue to develop. For now, we're comfortable with fully vaccinated employees attending events and onsite meetings that abide by locally-set restrictions. LA, for example, is still recommending masks and social distancing for fully vaccinated individuals, so we adhere to those guidelines," an IGN spokesperson told Axios.

The big picture: Conventions worldwide are starting to loosen their grip on safety precautions.

  • Events like UK Games Expo, the country's largest tabletop gaming convention, has opted out of basic safety measurements like masks or social distancing.

What they're saying: The event's decision is already drawing criticism from people across the industry.

  • No Code founder Jon McKellan urged publishers and developers to pull out of the event, tweeting, "Don't let the organisers put your staff at such risk for their sake of cramming in more ticket holders on the day. Also, you don't really want your brand associated with a massive covid hotspot right?"

The bottom line: Even in a non-pandemic, conventions are breeding grounds for disease. Events like PAX are notorious for "con crud," where it's normal to pick up some sort of cold or other illness after an event.

Go deeper

Oct 16, 2021 - Health

Pope Francis calls on companies to release COVID vaccine patents

Pope Francis. Photo: Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pope Francis called on pharmaceutical companies on Saturday to release patents to make COVID-19 vaccines more accessible to the poor, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: There is a stark divide between countries that have access to COVID-19 shots and those that don't, and the gap has widened as some wealthier countries have begun distributing third doses.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

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