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Safety the buzzword as wine, bull events begin

Omicron variant won't stop thousands of West Coast wine and cattle producers from meeting in person in Northern California.

Tim Hearden

January 25, 2022

4 Min Read
The Unified Wine and Grape Symposium returns to downtown Sacramento after being held in 2020 at Cal Expo, home of the California State Fair.Tim Hearden

The 2022 Unified Wine and Grape Symposium begins today, Jan. 25, at Sacramento's SAFE Credit Union Convention Center. And "safe" is the one word event organizers hope attendees will associate with the conference.

As the three-day symposium meets in person after going virtual last year, officials are touting modeling that projects the risk of COVID-19 transmission at a rate of less than 2 cases per 10,000 guests, a figure below the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's threshold for safe travel.

The calculations were done by Epistemix, a computational modeling software company that develops simulations to model the spread of disease. Symposium organizers have been working with Epistemix since August to develop mitigation strategies against the virus, and the firm has been doing periodic models.

Dr. Lindsey Reiser of Epistemix asserts that because of the robust safety measures being put in place by Unified, guests attending this week’s show are four times less likely to be exposed to SARS-CoV-2, than in Sacramento County generally.

Related: Wine symposium announces keynote speaker

“Understandably, the national surge in COVID infections is alarming," said John Aguirre, a Unified LLC managing committee member. "And while Omicron appears to have peaked in the Northwest United States and will probably do so in California shortly, we want to make sure we’re doing everything possible to host a safe, informative opportunity for the industry to gather, meet and discuss emerging trends. 

“We are reassured by these most current modeling results," he said.

In addition to the renovated convention center's new state-of-the-art ventillation system, safety precautions at this year's symposium include:

  • Required “Safe Expo” screening service prior to Convention Center entrance

  • Required masking for all guests, participants and staff

  • Proof of vaccination or evidence of a recent negative COVID test

  • Availability of COVID testing on site

  • Elimination of large-scale tasting events including the Tuesday reception, Wednesday regional wine tasting and Thursday lunch

Climate in focus

Today's opening-day lineup of presenters includes luncheon keynote speaker Steven Ostoja, director of the USDA California Climate Hub, who will offer insights into how a changing climate and extreme weather are affecting agriculture and winegrape production. Ostoja is a Fellow at the John Muir Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Davis.

Exhibits featuring more than 850 vendors will open Jan. 26-27, and one of the symposium's marquee events will be a "State of the Industry" presentation Jan. 26 featuring top industry leaders.

Built with the joint input of growers, vintners and allied industry members, the Unified Symposium has served as a clearinghouse of information important to wine and grape industry professionals for 28 years.

The symposium returns to downtown Sacramento for the first time in three years, as the 2020 event was held at Cal Expo, home of the California State Fair, because of the convention center expansion project.

The event follows the December return of the Almond Conference, which drew more than 3,200 industry members and 270 trade-show exhibitors to the convention center. With similar COVID-19 precautions in place in accordance with county regulations, one vaccinated attendee reported testing positive for the virus after leaving the conference.

Bull Sale week begins

Meanwhile, cattle, dog and horse buyers and consigners rom throughout the West are converging on Northern California this week for the 81st annual Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, which is being held in person with precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Hundreds of bull entrants, between 70 and 75 geldings and 20 stock dogs will go through sifting, trials and auctions today through Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Tehama District Fairgrounds.

For the second straight year, attendance will be limited to consigners, trade-show vendors and those who purchase a $20 "buyer's pass" that will be valid through the week. The event used to allow a free, walk-up crowd but organizers started requirng tickets last year to keep crowds smaller.

A buyer-consigner dinner and a bull-riding competition will return this year after being shelved in 2021.

The wine symposium and bull sale kick off a busy schedule of in-person agricultural events in the West over the next few weeks. Upcoming events include the Colusa Farm Show Feb. 1-3, the Klamath Bull and Horse Sale in Klamath Falls, Ore., on Feb. 3-6, the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., on Feb. 8-10, and the Sierra-Cascade Logging Conference in Anderson, Calif., on Feb. 10-12.

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