COVID-19 quashed last year’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference and pushed this year’s event back from May to September. On Thursday, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the nationally known event that features speeches from governors, legislative leaders and national political figures, will require COVID vaccinations.
“The Chamber believes the quickest way to ‘return to normal’ is through COVID-19 vaccination. To further stress the importance of getting the public vaccinated, and best ensure the health and safety of Conference participants and Mackinac Island residents and workers, the Chamber will require full COVID-19 vaccination for all Conference participants,” the Detroit Chamber noted in an email.
This comes as Republican lawmakers have sponsored bills barring employers from requiring vaccinations and banning vaccine passports, even though they don’t exist in Michigan. Few Republican lawmakers have publicly stated that they have been vaccinated.
The conference is scheduled for Sept. 20 to 23 and costs between $2,200 and $3,100 per person.
The annual confab is regularly attended by business leaders, lobbyists and politicians of all stripes, with many sponsoring parties at various Mackinac Island venues.
The Detroit Chamber said the vaccine requirement includes on-site vendors and chamber staff supporting the Conference. Staff at the Grand Hotel, where the conference is located, are currently fully vaccinated, the group said.
“The Chamber is exploring utilizing a third-party technology partner to assist with verifying vaccination status,” the email reads.
In light of the pandemic, the event will be limited to 1,300 attendees, or 30% capacity. Masks will not be required because of the vaccination mandate and reduced capacity measures, although the Detroit Chamber “will ask that all attendees still carry masks with them,” as they may be required at other venues. The group notes that policies may change “as public health conditions and official guidance evolve.”
The 2019 conference, the last one held, featured speeches from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and voting rights leader Stacey Abrams.