Mackinac Policy Conference returns in 2021 with COVID vaccination requirement

In-person conference to host fewer attendees, require vaccinations against coronavirus

Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference is returning this fall after being canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus -- but the event will operate differently still amid the pandemic.

The Detroit Regional Chamber (DRC) announced Thursday that the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference will take place in person on Sept. 20-23 on Mackinac Island with some stipulations in place. The annual conference was canceled last year due to COVID spread and subsequent restrictions.

The conference, typically held the week of Memorial Day, draws the biggest political and business leaders in the state each year.

Officials said Thursday that this year’s conference will limit attendees to no more than 1,300 -- a 30 percent reduction -- in addition to requiring attendees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before the event.

“The Chamber takes its responsibility hosting Michigan’s top leadership seriously,” said Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the DRC. “The Mackinac Policy Conference will be among the first large high-profile events to occur as restrictions ease, and the Chamber as a business organization, has the responsibility to handle the event properly.”

In addition to reducing the literal number of attendees, conference organizers say the event space will be utilized differently this time around to help decrease the density of attendees. Capacity restrictions will be in place in the main theater, and on-site remote viewing options will be available at the Grand Hotel. Officials say other areas of the hotel grounds, such as outdoor tents and a new facility at the swimming pool, will be used throughout the event to help limit the density of participants.

Officials also announced Thursday that those registering for the event this fall will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend. Being fully vaccinated is defined as being two weeks past your second COVID vaccine dose, or two weeks past your single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine dose.

“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,” reads a press release from the DRC Thursday. “This requirement includes on-site vendors and Chamber staff supporting the Conference ... The Chamber is exploring utilizing a third-party technology partner to assist with verifying vaccination status.”

Live blog: Tracking COVID-19 vaccines in Michigan: New openings, clinics, appointments

DRC officials say the coronavirus provisions are designed to prevent virus spread, especially if another virus surge occurs in the fall like it did last year.

Organizers say their hope is that face masks will be optional for the event, but that it’s too early to tell if masks will be necessary or not. Officials are asking attendees to bring a mask and keep it handy, as they may be required to be worn for public transportation on the ferries, at local businesses and in situations with large crowds.

As of May 20, Michigan only requires fully vaccinated people to wear face masks at outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people -- fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear face masks in most indoor and outdoor settings. Those who are not vaccinated are still supposed to wear face masks whenever around people outside of their household, especially in indoor settings.

Read: Michigan lifts mask requirements for fully vaccinated residents, matching CDC guidelines

The DRC says the coronavirus stipulations in place for the event are subject to change as “public health conditions and official guidance evolve.”

Registration for the September conference is currently open. Click here to learn more about or to register for the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference on the DRC’s website.

Related: Detroit’s TCF Center to reopen for live events in June

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.