Coronavirus COVID-19

The Society of Architectural Historians has been closely monitoring the outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and has now been detected in almost 70 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

This website will serve as SAH's central source of updates and information about COVID-10 with regard to the SAH 2020 Annual International Conference in Seattle, April 29–May 3. Above all else we prioritize the safety and welfare of our conference attendees and staff. If you have questions, concerns or recommendations, please contact us at

This website is not intended as a main source of medical or legal advice. Please consult with a relevant expert for guidance specific to your situation.


SAH 2020 Seattle Conference Cancellation

Published March 10, 2020

Dear SAH Community,

It is with deep regret that we inform you that the SAH Board of Directors has decided to cancel the SAH 73rd Annual International Conference in Seattle, Washington, April 29–May 3, 2020. This difficult decision was made after careful review of the public health information and recommendations released by government agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Public Health of Seattle and King County about the coronavirus. We have also taken into consideration the growing number of institutions placing travel restrictions on staff, faculty, and students, as well as CDC recommendations for people at risk for serious illness from COVID-19. The health and safety of our conference attendees and staff is of paramount importance to us. 
We sincerely thank the chair of the conference, Victoria Young, and local co-chairs Ann Huppert and Thaisa Way, for organizing paper sessions, roundtables, tours, receptions, and programs that highlight all the best that SAH and Seattle have to offer.
The good news is that we still have the foundation for a great conference, so SAH staff and leadership are actively working on providing a virtual solution to deliver conference content to our members. Our aim is to organize a virtual conference that will provide our session chairs and speakers with a platform for sharing their scholarship, while also allowing for greater participation and accessibility. 
We are working on revising our refund policy for conference registrations considering these extraordinary circumstances. Please take steps now to cancel or change your hotel reservation and travel arrangements if you are not going to travel to Seattle. Many airlines have updated their cancellation and change fees in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.
In the coming weeks you’ll find we’re all in this together as we move from an in-person to a virtual conference.  If we call upon you for help, we hope you’ll respond with your time, expertise or encouragement. We appreciate the feedback and support we have received, and we will continue to update you on our plans as soon as they are finalized.
Sandy Isenstadt, SAH President
Pauline Saliga, SAH Executive Director

Action Steps SAH is Taking

Published March 5, 2020

The Society of Architectural Historians is continuing to follow the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding large gatherings. During this critical period in the outbreak, Public Health – Seattle & King County is recommending that organizations consider postponing events and gatherings through March if it is feasible to avoid bringing large groups of people together.

Therefore, SAH is identifying actions to take in the event that we need to cancel our in-person conference and planning for alternative ways for attendees to participate. Such actions include:

  • Determining the need to postpone or cancel our in-person conference
    • Working closely with the planning team for our conference and venues to discuss the criteria we will use to postpone or cancel our in-person event(s)
    • Staying informed about the local COVID-19 situation in Seattle via Public Health – Seattle & King County daily email updates
  • Meeting with the planning team and at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel and Visit Seattle to discuss contingency plans and emergency operations plans
  • Meeting with SAH leadership and the local SAH planning committee to prioritize which conference programs, events, tours, etc. could move forward in the event our in-person event would be postponed or cancelled
  • Researching online conferencing platforms and models of successful virtual conferences
  • Communicating frequently to conference participants and members via the SAH COVID-19 website, which will serve as SAH’s central source of updates and information about the coronavirus and the SAH Seattle conference
  • Immediately alerting event organizers, staff and participants if our conference has been postponed or canceled and informing them of our COVID-19 outbreak (or emergency) refund policy and re-ticketing options

Information on SAH’s Response to COVID-19 and our Seattle Conference

Published on March 2, 2020

(PDF Version) SAH is concerned about the international spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.  Above all else we prioritize the safety and welfare of our conference attendees and staff. This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation, and there is still much to learn about the unfolding situations both in the U.S. and internationally.   

According to the CDC, “For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low. People in communities where ongoing community spread with the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported are at elevated, though still relatively low, risk of exposure.” In addition, the CDC states that “entry of foreign nationals from China and Iran has been suspended.” And, although the CDC warns against nonessential travel to Italy, South Korea, Iran and China, there currently are no domestic travel advisories or travel restrictions within the U.S. Please read the CDC Situation Summary for additional details.

SAH is working with our partners at Visit Seattle and the Seattle Renaissance Hotel to monitor the situation closely and we will proactively keep our members updated about our plans.

Before the conference, we will continue to:

  • Be in close contact with partners/venues to keep up-to-date on developments and advice from authorities.
  • Monitor, and if necessary, share WHO and CDC advice with regard to the coronavirus.
  • Communicate the latest news with all attendees and members.
  • Provide links to the latest information from the authorities.

At the conference:

  • We will continue to work closely with our partners and venues to monitor the situation.
  • We will provide hand sanitizers and signage at the event in common areas like the registration desk and exhibition area.
  • The Seattle Renaissance Hotel uses products to clean and sanitize that have been proven to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued guidelines to raise awareness about simple steps to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like coronavirus. Among them are actions that include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

If you are sick, to keep from spreading respiratory illness to others, you should:

  • Stay home when you are sick. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, bend your arm and cough or sneeze into it. Do not use your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

For the most up-to-date information on the coronavirus, please visit the following WHO and U.S. government sites below:

SAH will keep you informed in the event that we would need to make changes to the Seattle conference.


SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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