As Tallahassee Chamber rolls out mask, COVID rules, here’s who is going to annual conference

From the Tallahassee Democrat

A who’s who of the public, private and nonprofit sectors convene this weekend for the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce annual conference following last year’s cancellation prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference takes place at the Ritz-Carlton golf course resort in Amelia Island.

As of July 26, the conference had 532 registered attendees — the largest number in Chamber’s history. The previous record of 525 registered attendees happened in 2015.

But, still under the cloak of the pandemic and now with a vicious surge tied to the Delta variant, there have been dozens of cancellations leading up to the much anticipated event.

By Aug. 10, just days before the conference kick-off, the number dropped to 475 attendees. Chamber officials told the Democrat they are offering refunds to members who are backing out due to COVID concerns.

The Chamber released new and revised safety protocols that will be implemented throughout the conference, including mandatory masks for all attendees participating in sessions, unless they are eating, drinking or outdoors.

“We will continue to monitor current guidelines and should any policies or guidance change, we will update attendees accordingly,” according to the Chamber’s email blast Friday.

“The Chamber will have extra masks on hand at our registration desk should anyone need one during the weekend. Of course, it goes without saying that we encourage our members to be vaccinated.”

Other changes include the following:

  • Relocated the Friday Welcome Reception and Saturday banquet outside to the Ocean Front Lawn.
  • Limit the number of people at each table to four to allow for extra distance.  between seats and setting up an overflow ballroom where speakers and content will be live-streamed on a screen live from the main stage.
  • The breakfast, lunch and dinner food stations will be served by hotel catering staff.
  • Doors will be left open in all indoor meeting spaces to increase ventilation. The conference center will be cleaned and sanitized throughout each day.
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be place at meeting room entrances.

Notably absent from the conference will be Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow.

He penned a biting column in the Tallahassee Democrat that chided the Chamber’s intent to host the conference while a federal corruption case takes place that involves real estate developer J.T. Burnette, facing bribery charges to curry favor from former City Commissioner Scott Maddox.

Chamber President and CEO Sue Dick said the conference will focus on topics related to moving the community forward and the Chamber’s mission and strategic plan.

“Our mission is to lead and promote the success of business driving a higher quality of life for our community,” Dick said. “We believe this can be done through our strategic focus areas of Talent, Education and Workforce, Economic Competitiveness and Business Climate and Community and Prosperity.”