The early part of the year is usually filled with trade shows and big announcement events, but 2020 has been a bit different. Coronavirus has forced the suspension of most in-person gatherings -- Google I/O, E3, Mobile World Congress, and more have been canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), however, is moving forward with plans to host CES 2021 in Las Vegas as normal.

Many regions have banned large events like CES, but the CTA is apparently banking on things returning to normal (or almost normal) later this year. The CTA claims major brands have already committed to the show. It has also developed a few measures intended to prevent the spread of disease:

  • Regularly clean and sanitize spaces across the show venues and provide sanitization stations throughout;
  • Better enable social distancing, including widening aisles in many exhibit areas and providing more space between seats in conference programs and other areas where attendees congregate;
  • Issue best practices for attendees, such as wearing masks and avoiding shaking hands, and for exhibitors on product demonstrations;
  • Limit touch points throughout the facilities including through cashless systems for purchases and transactions;
  • Evaluate solutions for contactless thermal scans at key venue entry points;
  • Provide enhanced on-site access to health service and medical aid.

No one knows when it will be safe to hold events like CES, but moving forward with CES 2021 with everything up in the air seems pretty risky. CES 2020 was the last major event to squeak by before everything went off the rails, and there's some speculation that it may have helped the virus gain a foothold in the US. Unless the pandemic is completely over, CES 2021 could easily make things worse. Exhibitors may also get cold feet at the last minute and drop out. The CTA might spend time and money planning a show it ends up canceling a few weeks out. Even if the show happens, attendance will probably be poor.