After more than a year of living through the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, last weekend thousands of Bitcoin fans descended on Miami for Bitcoin 2021, a massive conference celebrating the cryptocurrency that was attended by big names such as Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey.
The lavish event was the first major in-person conference in the US since the start of the pandemic. It was a signal that Bitcoin hasn't gone away, the good life in America hasn't gone away, and as numerous attendees may have discovered, COVID-19 hasn't gone away, either. On Thursday, Twitter was flooded with tweets from people saying they contracted COVID-19 while attending the conference in Miami, or know people who did, or wishing the sick to get well soon. Others advised that any attendees get tested. In short, people are freaking out.
“Looks like I’m joining the BTC Miami covid list,” tweeted Luke Martin, host of the Profit Maximalist Podcast. “It turns out that attending packed events to discuss number-go-up technology does increase the chance of getting sick.” Martin blocked a Motherboard reporter who requested comment via Twitter DM, and deleted his initial tweets about contracting COVID-19 at the conference.
Eric Wall, the CIO of Sweden-based Arcane Assets, said in a tweet that he tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the conference. “I was not vaccinated,” he tweeted, before taking his account private. Wall did not respond to a request for comment sent via Twitter DM.
Although a decent chunk of Americans are fully vaccinated, some are not and do not plan to be. And, as The Block director of research Larry Cermak (who tweeted that he was in attendance and got a COVID test) pointed out, some attendees were from Europe where vaccines are less accessible at the moment. “I think all of us went there knowing the risks and just didn’t want to miss it,” he tweeted. “We got five tests so far and all negative and quarantined at home just in case.” Cermak didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The freakout over a possible COVID-19 cluster in Miami quickly went viral. “Lmao good job guys, why am I not surprised,” said one trader on Twitter, while lawyer Zoe Dolan tweeted, “heartbroken to be seeing that the real winner of bitcoin miami was covid. pls get your vaccine, fam.” Meanwhile, Cornell professor and cryptocurrency founder Emin Gun Sirer chimed in, “I'll be shocked if BTC Miami does not lead to a special new, super virulent variant of covid.”
Bitcoin 2021 was run by Bitcoin Magazine and hosted at the Mana Wynwood Convention Center. The event’s FAQ page stated that while attendees’ vaccination status wouldn’t be checked, “we still have to adhere to local, state and federal mandates on large gatherings” and masks and hand sanitizer would be provided to all attendees.
In an email to Motherboard, a Bitcoin Magazine spokesperson said the outlet was aware of attendees’ tweets and will be monitoring the situation as well as following CDC guidelines with regards to notifying attendees.
“Vaccines have been freely available for months in the US, to the extent that anyone who wanted to be vaccinated could do so by the time of the event. Because the vaccine is effective, the US has been able to begin to open back up with live sports, concerts and events,” the emailed statement said. “We provided all attendees with the current recommendations of the CDC and State of Florida and expressed to our audience that those who were high risk or hadn’t been vaccinated should consider waiting until next year. All attendees were offered free masks and hand sanitizer upon entering the event.”
The venue did not respond to a request for comment.
Over the past few days, reports have trickled out about the event being a largely maskless affair, featuring 12,000 attendees. As the New York Times described the scene: “The exuberance of being in person, indoors, in a crowd for the first time in more than a year was electric. Everyone hugged, no one masked.”