As institutions increasingly resort to "cancelling everything" as COVID-19 cases increase in the US, the organizers of HRC's Nashville Gala fundraiser, in conversation with the national organization, have decided to go forward with the event this weekend. They do, however, acknowledge that this could change as the situation develops and are taking measures to minimize those risks.


Local organizers indicated Monday that the event would continue as planned. Today, Nick Morrow, a spokesman for HRC's national organization confirmed that that remains the case as of today. So far, in fact, HRC has not cancelled ANY of its galas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As of now, we have not chosen to cancel any upcoming gala dinners. Of course, that could change, but as of now, we are proceeding with the events as planned," Morrow said. "We are following CDC guidelines and asking folks who feel sick to stay home. We'll also be reiterating the importance of hygienic practices to attendees both before and during the event itself."

Meanwhile, other LGBTQ groups are taking a different tack. The Equality Federation's Southern Leadership Summit has been postponed indefinitely due to concerns about COVID-19. The organization has decided to instead hold a virtual meeting via Zoom's conferencing platform, focused on state-level legislative updates and trends.

As the epidemic continues to spread, prominent voices, locally and nationally, are joining the chorus of those who argue that the only way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to "cancel everything" - all large gatherings, all unnecessary travel, etc. - and to increase the availability of digital options, such as work and class from home.

This opinion was stongly argued in a recent, widely-shared piece, "Cancel Everything," by Yascha Mounk, in The Atlantic. "The coronavirus could spread with frightening rapidity, overburdening our health-care system and claiming lives, until we adopt serious forms of social distancing. This suggests that anyone in a position of power or authority, instead of downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus, should ask people to stay away from public places, cancel big gatherings, and restrict most forms of nonessential travel."

This response is being widely adopted nationwide by colleges and universities. Last week, the University of Washington, where the nation's largest outbreak was underway, announced it would move all of its courses online for the semester. Schools like Columbia and NYU in New York soon followed.

This week, Vanderbilt announced it would follow suit and cancel classes until spring break and when classes resumed they would be online at least until the end of the month. Until further notice, all student gatherings are cancelled. This signals growing awareness among our local academic community that the worst has yet to come in Nashville.

The community seems to agree. According to an article published today in the Williamson Source, coronavirus has contributed to a growing list of cancelled or postponed events in the region that includes Tin Pan South, the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival, and Murfreesboro's Thai-Lao Food Fair.

Likewise, the Nashville Post reports that, in the past few weeks, customers of Ryman Hospitality Properties have cancelled about $40 million worth of events, accounting for 77,000 room nights at the properties affected. As the article also points out, this is roughly 2/3 of the cancellations experienced in the same quarter during the peak of the 2008/9 financial crisis.

Conferences like Rise Nashville, which is described as an annual Medicare Advantage Mega Conference, boasting over 1,400 attendees, are rescheduling for later in the year or next year, further impacting the local scene.

With each new day brining new diagnoses, often followed by urgent mitigation (such as the closing of Williamson County Schools today after a parent who visited a school was diagnosed with COVID-19 or the closing of AT&T Tower for cleaning after an employee working in the building was diagnosed), the situation becomes more of a strain on Nashville.


While the vast majority of cases of COVID-19 are believed to be mild, the virus can be a very serious infection that can lead to death. PThe CDC updated its guidance for at-risk individuals on March 10. The definition of ``at-risk’’ is anyone over 60 years old, or anyone of any age with a chronic medical condition including heart disease, lung disease or diabetes. These individuals should avoid crowds and take other steps to protect themselves. The CDC’s guidance is here:


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This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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