The organizers of PAX West have announced that exhibitors and attendees will be required to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter the convention next month.
In a statement, Global Gaming Event director Kyle Marsden-Kish said that the move was made after reviewing recommendations from local and state public health authorities. “Prior to entry we will now require proof of a completed COVID-19 vaccination series or a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test, each to be verified with a valid, government issued ID,” he wrote.
“While we let the community know the health and safety guidelines could evolve, we wanted to get it right and we feel confident that verification of fully vaccination or negative test, along with continued face covering requirements for everyone, will create an environment that promotes the wellbeing of our PAX community.”
Since the announcement that PAX West would return as an in-person event this year starting on August 30th, developers and media outlets alike have expressed concern over holding the event while the global pandemic continues. Some outlets, like Fanbyte have made it a policy not to send any employees.
As of this writing, 70 percent of adults in Washington’s King County (where PAX West is held) are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but the delta variant’s spread across the United States and the globe has reversed declining infection rates observed as vaccinations increased in 2020.
Though PAX West’s vaccination mandate and required face mask policies seem strong on paper, the allowance for a negative test in lieu of proof of vaccination is somewhat eyebrow-raising.
Negative tests only verify that the tested individual did not test positive for COVID-19 at the time they were tested. It’s entirely possible they could catch the virus in the interim between receiving the test and entering the convention center.
That’s to say nothing of the last year’s exhausting bevy of faked COVID-19 tests and false negatives that some tests offered. Health officials in Los Angeles complained last year as it appeared that negative COVID-19 tests were being used as “excuses to gather,” despite the outlying risks.
Allowing a negative COVID-19 test to guarantee entry into the convention center does allow attendees who can’t receive the vaccine due to allergies or other immunocompromising conditions to join the festivities. But with a population of attendees that comes from all over the country (including in areas where residents are actively refusing the COVID-19 vaccine), the risk remains significant for individuals attending PAX West.
The Center for Disease Control and other public health organizations do still recommend any of the COVID-19 vaccines as the best defense against the disease that’s killed over 600,000 Americans, a number that will only climb into 2022.