Our plans for the 2021 SCA Expo in New Orleans
Mill City Roasters has made the decision to not exhibit during the 2021 SCA Expo and to not participate as equipment sponsor for the US Roasting Championship taking place at the 2021 SCA Expo.
For the health and safety of our team, choosing to not participate as an exhibitor was an easy decision. The financial loss of the registration fee and missing out on showing our new line-up is a small price to pay to get as many of our people as possible out of a high-risk situation.
Continuing as the equipment sponsor for the US Roasting Championship required far more consideration. We made a commitment in 2019 to provide equipment for the roasting competition at the 2020 SCA Expo. That commitment was rolled over into 2021 after the cancellation of the 2020 Portland event. A few of us and members of our immediate family were willing to pull together and make the 2021 USRC event happen. There is, however, no guarantee that our plans would not be catastrophically affected by Covid-19. The pandemic allows no certainty and if moving a several thousand pounds of equipment (nearly) the entire length of the Mississippi River and having it all warmed up and ready to roast on days one through three requires anything, it’s certainty.
Setting aside the worst case scenario that a positive test result for any of us within 14 days of competition may mean we could not attend, logistics to prove that we are safe to participate carry their own challenges. Testing in New Orleans is currently capped at less than 4000 tests per day and only a fraction of those are PCR Tests – and none of the ‘approved’ testing sites on the SCA’s list offer guaranteed timelines of when to expect results. Delayed test results would bar us from entry into the convention center to set up the roasting area.
There is no room for delay and there is no back-up plan. A positive PCR test, delayed PCR test results, or even a lost vaccination card by a critical team member could force a cancellation of the US Roasting Competition. Without sufficient time to cancel, competitors and volunteers may face significant financial injury having potentially made non-refundable travel arrangements – to say nothing about the risk of having traveled into an area with the one of the highest Covid-19 positivity rates in the US for an event that is no longer happening.
We shared our concerns with representatives from the SCA yesterday with the hope we could find a way to separate competition from the Expo, move it to a safer time and place and possibly allow more of the original qualifiers to participate and potentially re-level the playing field. They are firm in their conviction that the event move forward at this venue as scheduled. On behalf of the membership, we requested that they better communicate the actual entry requirements beyond what is required to pick-up a badge as the Nola Ready Covid Restrictions Phase 3 has additional daily requirements not yet mentioned by the SCA. We had also previously requested the USRC add specific Covid-19 guidelines in the USRC Rules & Regulations 1.5.1 where there are currently no specific rules or guides and address masking protocol earlier than at the Online Learning Session. As of today, we’ve seen no additional safety information.
We cannot begin to understand the challenges of trying to manage this event during a rapidly changing global pandemic but we’ve been informed the event will proceed regardless and the SCA will seek an alternative equipment sponsor more amenable to this situation. We’ve no doubt they’ll succeed and we sincerely wish everyone involved the best of luck.
Stay safe everyone,
Mill City Roasters
For our friends in the industry who are still planning to travel to the SCA Expo due to your company/corporate requirements, our team completed days of specific research on Nola Ready Covid Restrictions Phase 3, the current testing landscape in New Orleans with specifics on actual availability of PCR testing vs. antigen testing. We also spoke to the Mayor’s office and representatives at the Convention Center. If you are actively trying to figure this out, you can call us and we will try to help you navigate how to keep your team safe.
Note 1: As of today, our understanding is that the requirements of both the SCA Expo and Nola Ready Covid Restrictions Phase 3 requirements will need to be met. Currently in regards to vaccination/testing, the SCA website only references the SCA’s requirement of providing one negative PCR test to pick-up your badge. Per conversations with the Convention Center last week, the Convention Center is likely going to require you to provide proof of at least one dose of an approved COVID vaccine -OR- negative PCR test within 72 hours to enter EACH DAY of the Expo. We called the Mayor’s office to clarify and they confirmed that wording ‘entry’ or ‘enter’ applies to each individual day of the multiple day event and not just the first day (badge pick-up day). We verified this with the SCA yesterday and suggested they add all requirements to their website including the convention center requirements and Nola Ready Covid Restrictions Phase 3 as many attendees will depend on the Expo site to inform them on ALL the requirements to enter Expo, not just their “Three Pillars” of advanced registration, one PCR test for a badge and masking. They noted on 8/23 they would consider the addition. No word yet on what ‘type’ of vaccination proof they will accept – official card, digital photo, insurance docs, pharmacy record, etc.
Note 2: For anyone planning to get a PCR test in New Orleans, it will be difficult. The SCA has shared a link with their ‘approved’ New Orleans based testing sites but none appear to guarantee you would receive PCR results within 72 hours potentially making the test invalid before the result is received. The City of New Orleans’ daily testing capacity appears to be less than 4000 tests(4) with only a fraction of those tests being PCR tests, as opposed to antigen tests. Your test is only good for 72 hours from specimen – if you are attending for more than a day or two and unable to show proof of vaccination, you will need to retest multiple times. We are especially concerned that people traveling from outside the US where vaccinations are not as readily available may not understand this. We are unsure why the SCA is calling these sites ‘approved’ as the City of New Orleans doesn’t identify them as ‘approved’ – it seems to just be a helpful list of low-cost or free sites. In our experience, it would be more common if you need test results in a guaranteed timeframe, you would work with a lab, not a pharmacy or urgent care center and it would cost about $150. (Heads up – the SCA is currently using ‘Rapid Test’ as shorthand for an Antigen test and not doing a great job of clarifying their references to available Antigen testing is, we’re assuming, as a voluntary precautionary measure for vaccinated attendees. PCR testing is different and takes longer. And today on the instagram livestream, Yannis stated that you can get a PCR test at CVS but when we last check on the CVS website, the average turn around time is 2-4 days.)
Note 3: If you are a competitor, SCA has yet to publish the Covid guidelines for your competition under Section 1.5.1 of the Rules & Regulations. You may want to seek those out. They also note they are not sharing masking requirements until your Online Learning Session. If you are still deciding on participating, that information would be helpful to you to access your risk.
(1) Current Guidelines, Phase 3, by City of New Orleans – https://ready.nola.gov/incident/coronavirus/safe-reopening/
(2) Letter from Yannis Apostolopoulos, Chief Executive Officer, Specialty Coffee Association August 16th, 2021 – https://mailchi.mp/sca.coffee/coffee-expo-interest-covid19-entry-requirements?e=d8ce4031de
(3) Guidelines for Businesses included in the Vaccine/Negative Test Requirement, City of New Orleans, August 16th, 2021 – https://ready.nola.gov/NOLAReady/media/Documents/Coronavirus/Business-Handout-VaccineNegative-Test-Requirement-(2).pdf
(4) Covid-19 New Orleans Dashboard – https://app.powerbigov.us/view?r=eyJrIjoiMWUxZjFjM2ItOTI0ZS00MTcxLWJjYjgtODQwNzg2MDRhMmU3IiwidCI6IjA4Y2JmNDg1LTFjYjctNGEwMi05YTIxLTBkZDliNDViOWZmNyJ9&pageName=ReportSection