ORLANDO, Fla. — A global health conference in Orlando at which President Donald Trump was set to speak next week has been canceled over coronavirus concerns.
- Health conference in Orlando featuring Trump canceled
- HIMSS: It's the 1st cancellation of conference in 58 years
- Demings seeks to reassure concerned conventioneers
- Trump still scheduled to return to Central Florida for private event
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Trump was slated to deliver the keynote address at the HIMSS Global Health Conference at the Orange County Convention Center on Monday afternoon.
The conference was one of two Central Florida appearances scheduled for Trump that day, so as of Thursday afternoon, he was still set to return to the area next week. His other appearance Monday is a lunch-hour private fundraiser at a residence in Seminole County.
The HIMSS conference is billed as the largest annual health conference in the U.S. and is one of the Orange County Convention Center's largest trade conferences, historically drawing tens of thousands of attendees. HIMSS said in a news release that this is the first time the conference has been canceled in 58 years.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Arianna Huffington, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, and former Major League Baseball star Alex Rodriguez were all scheduled to speak at the conference, according to the HIMSS website.
"Based on evaluation of evolving circumstances and coordination with an external advisory panel of medical professionals to support evidence-based decision making, it is clear that it would be an unacceptable risk to bring so many thousands of people together in Orlando next week," HIMSS President and CEO Hal Wolf said in the news release.
Wolf said the advisory panel had concerns about the consequences of possibly displacing health care workers during a critical time and stressing local health care systems in the event there were a public health emergency.
"It is now clear that cancellation is unavoidable in order to meet HIMSS’ obligation to protect the health and safety of the global HIMSS community, employees and local residents, as well as for the healthcare providers tasked with keeping our U.S. and global communities healthy," Wolf said.
Earlier this week, Amazon, Salesforce, and Intel confirmed they were pulling out of participation in the conference.
"Due to the continued concerns about COVID-19, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in the HIMSS20 Conference. ... We've reached this decision after much consideration, as the health and safety of our employees, customers, and partners are our top priority," an Amazon spokesperson wrote in an email.
Trump last stopped in Central Florida just last month, when he served as grand marshal for the Daytona 500. Before that, he signed a Medicare executive order in The Villages in October 2019.
Officials seek to reassure conference-goers
During a news conference Thursday, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings expressed concern about the recent convention cancellations and aimed to reassure anyone who still has plans to attend a conference in Central Florida that "we are open for business here."
The cancellation of HIMSS was "a huge hit to Orange County and the convention center," Demings said. It was expected to draw 43,000 attendees, and factoring in hotel bookings and related entertainment was estimated to have been worth $113 million in economic impact to Central Florida.
This week, two other conferences slated for the convention center — Ellucian Live 2020, which was expecting 8,500 attendees, and the Minecraft Festival, which was estimated to bring 15,000 people to Central Florida — canceled their shows. The three cancellations together were a loss of $154 million to the area just this week alone, Demings said, and "we want to stabilize that."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said President Donald Trump's last visit to Central Florida was to The Villages last October. In fact, it was his appearance at the Daytona 500 on February 16. The story has been amended to fix the error.