March 01, 2020

IOA Adopting COVID-19 Precautions for 2020 Conference

In an email sent Friday night, leaders of the International Ombudsman Association said that the annual conference later this month will go ahead as planned. Nonetheless, preventive measures are planned for the event set for March 27 to April 1, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Separately IOA announced that registrations may be canceled up to March 9.  
Here is the email from IOA President Marcia Martinez-Helfman and Executive Director Chuck Howard:

IOA Is Continuing to Monitor the Coronavirus with

Regard to Conference
Dear IOA Supporters:
The IOA is closely monitoring updates from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the situation in communities where cases of the virus have been confirmed. Currently, neither organization has advised that travel restrictions are necessary for air travel into or out of Oregon or any other US state. Further, there is no information or warning to suggest that there is an imminent risk to our Annual Conference or professional development offerings to be delivered in Portland, OR, which will take place at the end of March. Unless these circumstances change, the Conference will go on as scheduled with the current cancellation policy in place.
We have heard from many registrants that they are committed to attending the Conference and we thank them for their continued engagement. IOA will continue to monitor the situation and provide email updates. If you become aware of important facts or circumstances that are not otherwise being addressed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please do not hesitate to reach out to one of us at
The CDC is working with state and local governments to implement aggressive measures to prevent the spread of this virus, and we are fully committed to taking appropriate precautions to provide a safe and healthy environment for attendees.
In the meantime, IOA leadership will:

  • Follow recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the policies of state and local government officials.
  • Identify local emergency care facilities that will be able to promptly care for attendees that may require immediate treatment.
Additionally, during the course of the Conference, we will:

  • Provide hand sanitizer to Conference attendees
  • Ensure an aggressive cleaning and disinfection process across all high-volume touchpoints (catering areas, surfaces, handrails, restrooms, entrances/exits, touch-screens, etc.).
  • Maintain an awareness campaign through email, website, and onsite information and signage.
  • Promote a “touch-free” event:
    • Adopt and inform attendees of a “no-handshake policy”
    • Recommend avoidance of business card exchanges, instead, encourage the utilization of IOA Conference mobile app, AirDrop, and other available services to share contact information.
  • Provide more information from the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront
For now, Conference attendees are encouraged to follow basic hand and cough hygiene measures to prevent colds, flu, and coronavirus, both now and during the Conference. Here are a few recommendations from the CDC for everyday preventive actions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
IOA will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates via email. Additional updates will be posted to the IOA Conference website
(IOA Travel-Safety.)

Related posts: IOA Opens Registration for Pre-Conference Training in Portland; IOA Announces Agenda for 2020 Conference in Portland; IOA Seeks Proposals for First Conference Ombuds.


  1. Isn't the best precaution to cancel or reschedule the conference at this point? The event is great, but is it worth putting people at risk?

  2. A few reactions: 1) It would be helpful to know how much of the conference is still happening - universities and corporations are asking employees not to travel, and not approving travel funds, which must be causing some presenters to cancel. In order to be able to make an informed choice about attending, that information would be really useful. 2) In many places people are being asked not to congregate in large groups. This may be an abundance of caution, but since we don’t quite know what we’re dealing with, it’s something to think about. 3) Perhaps we could have one or two workshops on Zoom each week from people who were going to present at the conference -let’s get creative!