2021 GMA Annual Convention Safety Precautions

We are excited to host our Annual Convention in Savannah from August 6-10, 2021. All of GMA leadership and staff believe it is extremely important to be transparent in our plans to allow each member to make an informed decision based on their individual needs, concerns and expectations. 

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations now rising sharply in Georgia and nationally as a result of the Delta variant, GMA is providing the following information to inform members of current plans, with the caveat that policies and protocols are subject to change.

Please find a list of frequently asked questions below and let us know if you have anymore questions or concerns.

Will GMA require all attendees and staff to wear face masks/coverings and practice social distancing during the 2021 Annual Convention?

In consultation with the GMA Officers, GMA is recommending, but not requiring, that all attendees wear face masks during the 2021 Annual Convention events in Savannah. The decision was made based on the following factors:

  • The CDC has recommended both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals wear face masks indoors, and our decision follows the CDC guidance.
  • The COVID-19 Delta variant is more contagious than previous variants and spreads more rapidly than earlier thought.
  • Among our members, we have those in the vulnerable population and some unable to receive a vaccination due to medical reasons.
  • Members have children under the age of 12 who are not eligible for the vaccine.
  • It is important to be considerate of all attendees and to remember that everyone, regardless of vaccination status or previously having COVID-19, is vulnerable to the Delta variant.

To emphasize the importance of mask wearing, GMA is providing every attendee a convention-branded mask.

Savannah’s Emergency Order

In addition, please find below responses we’ve provided to members regarding Savannah’s Emergency Order on Masks:

  • The Emergency Order requires the wearing of masks while in buildings owned or occupied by the city of Savannah, and educational institutions and hospitals.
  • The Convention Center is state-owned, and the Savannah Emergency Order does not apply, and the state has no mandate in place.
  • The Order strongly advises persons entering commercial establishments to wear a mask or face covering.
  • The Order strongly encourages restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores and pharmacies to strongly encourage their employees to wear masks.
  • The Order has the normal exceptions for medical or religious reasons and while eating, drinking, or smoking.

We recommend any person with questions regarding their attendance based on the policies and decisions articulated above to consult with their medical professional and make their determination based on their comfort level and risk tolerance.

Additionally, We highly encourage all convention attendees to be courteous of other’s personal space and social-distancing preferences.  We are also supporting those who desire social distancing by staggering entry into the exhibit hall. All attendees should place a green, yellow or red sticker on their name badge indicating their personal space preference.  Stickers will be available in the River Concourse across from the GMA registration counter. This sticker is different than the color coding on your badges. Colors listed on your badge/badge holder indicate your registration type (ex: red= full conference registration, green = guest registration).

  • Green – “Okay with hugs & high-fives”
  • Yellow – “Okay with talking but not touching”
  • Red – “Hi! I am keeping my distance”

All attendees should respect the color code on the name badges and assume those without a sticker have a preference for red, and should remember that some in attendance may not have been vaccinated due to medical reasons and are therefore at greater risk.  Please assume each interaction is with a vulnerable person unless they have a green sticker on their name badge.

What happens if attendees start to feel sick?

Attendees should not attend any events, training classes, sessions or other activities if not feeling well.  Please seek a test if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.  Anyone who tests positive for the virus while in Savannah is requested to immediately contact one of the GMA staff members listed below.  By doing so, staff can assist in contacting other individuals who might have had close contact with the person who is not feeling well.  Please note that contacting GMA is strictly voluntary.

Will any training class or meeting capacities be altered for safety?

As a safety precaution, general sessions taking place in Chatham Ballroom will have more spaced out seating throughout to allow for some distancing. While GMA is making every effort to place larger sessions in larger rooms to maximize separation, separation will be limited due to anticipated attendance. With this in mind, attendees are strongly encouraged to wear masks when not eating or drinking.

Hand sanitizers will be available for all attendees in the registration area, (please only take one bottle).  Attendees should wash their hands frequently and social distance as possible.

Attendees should follow all rules of the convention facility and hotels.

Has GMA made any schedule changes to enhance safety for convention attendees?

This year’s convention will host less than normal food service, which will allow members more freedom of choice to make dining decisions to their comfort level. Events with food will be served in a safe manner consistent with CDC and DPH recommendations. We have also canceled the attendee-wide Awards Luncheon, which requires in-door, banquet-style seating for an extended period of time.

In addition, we transitioned our city managers lunch to a meeting and the scheduled lunch events during the convention will consist of buffet and boxed lunch options to allow attendees to be more flexible in their eating locations.

Will there be any virtual components of the convention?

For those who have attended GMA’s Annual Conventions in Savannah, we know there is nothing like the in-person experience, which is why we have worked so hard to ensure your safety at hosting this year’s gathering. With that in mind, we will offer very limited live-streaming opportunities and only accessible through designated links.

Please rest assured that we fully understand that these are challenging times, and we are taking every consideration into account to plan an event that is as safe as possible. We continue to think of other possibilities and encourage you to share your input with us. Please check back here as we will continue to update guidance for the 2021 Annual Convention based on CDC and state guidelines. We encourage everyone to consider their own situation and make their decision based on their own personal circumstances and comfort level, with any necessary guidance from their medical professionals and others.