The Korea Herald


[From the Scene] CES vs. COVID vs. My safety

By Kim Byung-wook

Published : Jan. 7, 2022 - 17:49

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Attendees enter an exhibition hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Day 1 of CES 2022, January 5. (Yonhap) Attendees enter an exhibition hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Day 1 of CES 2022, January 5. (Yonhap)

LAS VEGAS – With just one more day to go, the Consumer Electronics Show 2022, though requiring attendees to be fully vaccinated, is a potential incubator of next variant of you-know-what thanks to people without masks spread out all over town.

An unpleasant experience began right after touching down at McCarran Airport on Sunday. Paul, a Lyft driver who gave a brief tour of the Strip throughout the ride to the Westgate Hotel, wasn‘t wearing his mask.

Vaccinated or not, Lyft mandates all drivers and passengers to cover their mouths and noses with face masks. During the ride, Paul complained about paying $350 per week to a car rental company because his minivan broke down, without knowing that the person sitting in the back had complaints too.

A waitress in the hotel lobby mentioned that those not wearing masks are mostly Republicans. Past the lobby, row after row of flashy slot machines were in full throttle, with people sitting closely to each other pushing buttons over and over -- many of them without masks, smoking and drinking.

The situation was much better inside the Las Vegas Convention Center, the venue for CES 2022. Throngs of company officials, reporters and YouTubers from all around the world were mixed together, but most of them didn’t forget to put their masks on.

But at popular booths, social distancing was nowhere to be found. Like people born to take pictures of the latest technology, a mix of reporters, participants and visitors swarmed into limited spaces simultaneously.

SK Group, Korea’s third-largest conglomerate, has set up a food truck at the event, offering free ice cream made of alternative milk and corn dogs made using alternative meat sausage to visitors. The food truck is part of the conglomerate‘s strategy to promote its goal to cut 1 percent of the world’s carbon emissions by 2030.

Though set up outside of the convention center, offering snacks to participants that require them to take off their masks to eat left a lot to be desired -- particularly at a time when the US is reporting over half a million new COVID cases a day.

And of course, the most concerning part is going back home. To board a return flight to Korea, a negative PCR test result within 72 hours is required. What‘s worse, a mandatory 10-day self-quarantine awaits after arrival.

The Korean government operates an exemption program for the compulsory quarantine for those who have “important” business purposes.

Executives can receive the exemption if they provide confirmation letters from their CEOs. Simply put, the majority of travelers who do not have meetings as important the ones executives have to stay at home for 10 days.

“I was able to receive the exemption because I have important business meetings I can’t miss, but honestly, I‘m not sure whether the exemption helps contain the COVID-19 crisis,” said one Korean executive at CES.