Courtesy of Qualtrics

Qualtrics reschedules annual conference because of coronavirus concerns

By Liesl Nielsen, | Updated - Mar. 3, 2020 at 3:36 p.m. | Posted - Mar. 3, 2020 at 3:01 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah tech giant Qualtrics will reschedule its annual user conference for early fall because of coronavirus concerns.

The tech company had speakers like Michelle Obama, Matthew McConaughey, Ellen DeGeneres, Chip and Joanna Gaines and Tony Hawk slated to speak.

"The health and safety of our customers, employees, and partners is our highest priority. Given the state of Coronavirus (COVID-19) globally, we are rescheduling X4 to early fall," the company said in a statement on its website.

Qualtrics said it will announce new dates in the coming weeks and will also be postponing its conferences in England and Australia. The company has asked the 16,000 prospective attendees to contact their airline and hotel providers to "change plans and make alternative arrangements."

"Nothing is more important than the safety and health of our employees, customers & partners. We've been actively monitoring the global developments surrounding coronavirus day and night. Due to the evolving situation, we're rescheduling X4 to early fall," a tweet from Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith reads.

Local tech company Domo announced Friday it would cancel its in-person conference and convert the event to a virtual one online, but Qualtrics had originally planned to proceed with its event.

"According to the CDC and state officials, risk levels for the coronavirus to the American public and the general public in Utah remain low. We are closely monitoring developments and will take immediate action where needed," the website read Friday.

Qualtrics' move to reschedule, however, is in line with a variety of other companies across the country also concerned about the effects of coronavirus and international travel.

Facebook recently announced it would cancel its developer conference in May because of concerns over coronavirus, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discouraged international travel to the faith’s general conference in April and postponed leadership meetings until October.

“I think everyone's gonna cancel every conference. It’s gonna get weird,” said Domo CEO Josh James.

So far, though, no other major events in Utah have been canceled, postponed or rescheduled. Universities, however, have restricted travel to Asian countries and beyond.

Brigham Young University placed a travel ban on China and South Korea for all students and employees until further notice, and the University of Utah recently announced that it will restrict all official university travel to China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea for students, faculty and staff until the end of the spring semester. The school will also suspend all university-affiliated student programs and travel in all international locations for the Spring 2020 semester.

Health officials in Utah have investigated several people for potential infection of the virus, but none has tested positive, said Dr. Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah Department of Health, during a press conference Thursday.

"This coronavirus issue that we’re dealing with is changing every day," Miner said. "It’s important that we be here to communicate with each other and update what is going on.”

The risk of Utahns being infected with coronavirus is still considered low, but health officials do expect the disease to come to Utah at some point, Miner said. He believes Utah will be able to respond well, if and when cases start coming in.

Gov. Gary Herbert reassured residents Thursday that health officials are prepared for a possible outbreak.

“We are, in fact, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” he told reporters during his monthly press conference at PBS Utah.

Sen. Mitt Romney, who visited the Silicon Slopes area Friday, said he believes President Donald Trump made the right call to “put one person in charge” of handling the health concern after Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to head the operations.

“But frankly, there’s not a lot you can do to prevent the spread of a highly contagious condition. And if someone comes up with a way to do that, we’ll all get behind them; but that’s not there. But what (Trump) is doing is making sure that we get the preventative equipment … to medical professionals,” Romney said, noting that finding a vaccine for the virus could take a year or more.

“In the interim, we’re not quite sure what’s going to happen,” he said.

Liesl Nielsen

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