Dragon Con announces its 2021 Covid-19 guidelines: Vaccine or negative test and masks required, no public parade spectators

The annual convention will require proof of vaccination or a negative test, masks in all indoor spaces, and will reduce attendance to half of 2019's turnout

Dragon Con 2021 Covid-19 guidelines released
The Box Heroes march in the annual Dragon Con parade.

Photograph courtesy of Dragon Con Photography (c) Dragon Con, Inc.

After going fully virtual in 2020, Dragon Con, Atlanta’s annual ode to all things nerd, is planning to hold its usual five-day, in-person convention on Labor Day weekend. On August 1, officials released their initial 2021 health and safety guidelines, which among other measures included a requirement that masks be worn in all indoor spaces. On August 17, Dragon Con announced that it would require all guests to either provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test to be allowed to attend this year’s in-person festivities.

The vaccination requirement follows the lead of some other major fall events in Atlanta, including Music Midtown and Shaky Knees. Some of Atlanta’s arts venues are also requiring proof of vaccination, including the Alliance Theatre and the city’s Live Nation venues (which includes the Tabernacle, Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood, and Buckhead Theatre, among others).

These changes come in light of the rapidly spreading delta variant of Covid-19 and rising cases here in Atlanta and across the country. In late July, the CDC changed its guidance on masking, stating that vaccinated people should wear masks indoors “in areas of substantial or high transmission,” which, per the CDC’s map, includes the entire United States as of August 17. The chances of a vaccinated person contracting Covid-19, delta variant or otherwise, are still rare and severe cases among the vaccinated are even rarer. But a recent CDC study that indicated if a vaccinated person does contract a “breakthrough” infection of the delta variant, their viral load is similar to that of an infected, unvaccinated person, meaning they could transmit the virus easily to another person. The City of Atlanta has had an indoor mask mandate in effect since July 28.

To meet Dragon Con’s vaccination requirement, you’ll need to either show your CDC vaccination card—either the physical card itself or a photo of it on your phone—when you pick up your convention badge. Otherwise, upon picking up your badge, you’ll need to show proof of a negative Covid test that was taken within 72 hours. Children under 12, who cannot be vaccinated, are also required to show proof of a negative Covid test.

Masks are required indoors at all times, regardless of vaccine status. It’s not explicitly clear how this will impact cosplay—whether a Stormtrooper helmet will suffice as a mask, for example. Regardless, it’s going to be a great year for characters like Bane, Sheik, or Sub-Zero. As for removing masks for photographs with celebrity guests, the convention’s FAQ says this will be allowed at the guest’s discretion.

The number of attendees will also be capped. Per the August 17 press release, the convention expects to host about 40,000 people, which is a little under half of 2019’s capacity of 85,000. (To put some perspective on that figure, when Atlanta United hosted its first full-capacity game earlier this year, it was in front of a crowd of about 40,000.) But, as Dragon Con’s FAQ cautions, that number could be in flux as pandemic guidelines and restrictions change.

The other biggest change is to the parade, which annually packs Peachtree Street with thousands of spectators. Rather than being free and open to the public, this year, parade spectating will be restricted only to Dragon Con badge holders, and the parade itself will be “smaller than in past years.” It will be televised live on CW69, on YouTube, and as part of the con’s virtual membership.

You can read the full Dragon Con health and safety guidelines here—and here are a few more of the notable points:

  • To help cut down on crowding, there will be no Saturday day passes sold this year. And to reduce congestion and crowding at badge pickup, no badges will be sold onsite. Instead, con-goers will need to purchase memberships in advance online. Dragon Con’s FAQ also warns they expect to sell-out prior to the con.
  • Panel rooms and other venues will host 2/3rds of full capacity, and lines will be closed once they reach that capacity. The Walk of Fame (a.k.a. the hall where celebrity guests sign autographs and pose for photos) will have “50 percent fewer guests signing,” along with one-way traffic in the room and limited capacity.
  • The convention promises expanded badge checks, so have your lanyards ready.
  • Panel rooms and other programming spaces will be deep cleaned once during the day and overnight daily, with rooms closed for cleaning on a rolling basis. Gaming in AmericasMart Building 1 will be closed form 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. daily for cleaning.
  • The kids track will not host its annual kids’ character encounter or family-friendly dance events.
  • A Dragon Con TV streaming membership will be available for $10 that allows access to live-streamed panels from this year’s convention, as well virtual-only panels from some fan tracks. Some streaming content will also be available for free, according to Dragon Con TV’s FAQ. The convention also plans to once again offer its virtual marketplace, which debuted during last year’s fully virtual con.
  • Disposable masks and hand sanitizer will be available at the con.
  • Sorry folks, no refunds or rollovers. The exception to this rule is international fans who live in countries where travel to the U.S. is currently restricted—those folks are encouraged to contact the Dragon Con office directly. The convention will offer a free streaming membership to anyone who purchased tickets but cannot attend.
  • Con officials encourage fans to get vaccinated and, of course, stay home if they feel ill or have been exposed to someone with Covid-19.

This article was updated on August 17 with new information regarding the convention’s proof of vaccination or negative Covid test requirement.