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2021 Mackinac Policy Conference to Be Held in September, Vaccination Required

The Detroit Regional Chamber will convene the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island, as scheduled, Monday, Sept. 20 through Thursday, Sept. 23. Registration for the Conference has been open since Dec. 11, 2020 and remains open.

While the Conference is four months away, the Chamber is issuing preliminary provisions for Conference operations to help attendees prepare. As seen with Michigan’s late winter COVID-19 spike and last week’s updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the health situation and government guidance can change rapidly. The provisions issued today by the Chamber are based on what is known today and have been developed in collaboration with Chamber leadership, Conference Chairman Wright L. Lassiter III, president and chief executive officer of Henry Ford Health System (HFHS), a HFHS clinical advisory team, Grand Hotel, Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry, and Mackinac Island businesses and government leaders. These provisions issued today are subject to change as public health conditions and official guidance evolve.

“The Chamber takes its responsibility hosting Michigan’s top leadership seriously,” said Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “The Mackinac Policy Conference will be among the first large high-profile events to occur as restrictions ease, and the Chamber as a business organization, has the responsibility to handle the event properly.”

The changes outlined in today’s announcement favor caution and, in some cases, may go beyond official health and safety guidelines. Both the Chamber and Grand Hotel are private entities and are able to establish rules that go beyond government requirements.

The following provisions for the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference are issued, but subject to change:

Vaccinations Required to Attend

The Chamber believes the quickest way to “return to normal” is through COVID-19 vaccination. To further stress the importance of getting the public vaccinated, and best ensure the health and safety of Conference participants and Mackinac Island residents and workers, the Chamber will require full COVID-19 vaccination for all Conference participants. The CDC defines “fully vaccinated” as two weeks after receiving a second shot of a two-dose vaccine, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This requirement includes on-site vendors and Chamber staff supporting the Conference. The Chamber is exploring utilizing a third-party technology partner to assist with verifying vaccination status.

Participant Density Will Be Reduced by More Than 30%

Total attendance will be limited to 1,300 attendees. The reduction of participants will reduce density and create a more comfortable experience for attendees as society regains comfort with large events. The number of participants was determined after evaluation of Grand Hotel’s indoor and outdoor space available to conduct Conference activities. Grand Hotel space will also be utilized differently than during previous conferences. Capacity in the main Theatre will be reduced, additional on-site remote viewing options will be available, and the use of additional venues such as Grand Hotel’s new facility at the Esther Williams Swimming Pool and outdoor tents will also help reduce density.

As a result of the reduced capacity, the Chamber anticipates general attendee registration will close by the end of May. Once registration closes, the Chamber will establish a waiting list for those still interested in attending. As in prior years, access to nearly all of the Conference’s content will be available for live and on-demand online viewing through the Chamber’s partnership with Detroit Public Television.

A Note on Masks

The Chamber plans and hopes its expectations to require vaccination and reduced density will offer a safe environment where wearing face masks will be optional.

However, the Chamber will ask that all attendees still carry masks with them as they still may be required for ferry service (as regulated by federal government agencies), by individual businesses on the Island, and for situations where crowding may occur. The Chamber is fully supportive of participants who choose to wear a mask as an additional level of protection, even after vaccination.

These provisions issued today are subject to change as public health conditions and official guidance evolve. The Chamber will continue to provide adjusted guidance in the coming months.

Updated May 21, 2021 at 12:05 p.m.