SMH 2021 COVID Mitigation

As faculty members at the Joint Advanced Warfighting School, your SMH 2021 Team has exercised COVID-mitigation measures with our students for over a year. Together with the professionals at the Hilton Main hotel, we are executing the following measures to reduce the likelihood of exposure for those attending the conference in-person.

  1. Delayed the conference 60 days from mid-March to late May to allow for better weather, more outdoor activities/dining, expansion of the COVID vaccine distribution, and further detailed mitigation planning.
  2. Adhere to State of Virginia COVID guidelines for meeting in public places.  These are available at  While the Governor has not issued specific guidance regarding academic conferences, page 5 (Social Gatherings), page 9 (Restaurants), and page 56 (Entertainment and Public Amusement) may be informative. 
  3. Work very closely with our international partner Hilton Hotels to ensure the conference committee and the hotel staff are applying the very best industry standards regarding COVID health and safety.  The Hilton Main has already held several group events as well as served as a temporary home to sailors who are quarantining before deployment. All without incident. See the Hotel Information Tab and the video link to learn more about how the Hilton Main is dedicated to keeping us safe.
  4. Hold outdoor events where feasible and appropriate: (a) the opening reception will be on the deck of the USS Wisconsin; (b) the grad student reception will be in an open-air restaurant; (c) the keynote reception will take place indoors, but in a 20,000 sq ft extremely well-ventilated open space.  If 200 people attend the reception, they will each have a personal space equivalent to a 10 ft x 10 ft room.
  5. All conference seating will be at least 6 feet apart.  For example, a room that would normally hold 300 people in theater seating, will be set for 100, with seats set 6 feet apart.  With approx. 200 people attending the conference and 10 panels running simultaneously, the likelihood of ever having more than 40 people in a single session/panel is slim.
  6. Change the Awards Dinner to a Reception and ensure an ample size room to allow personal spacing.
  7. All food served as part of receptions or during breaks will be in single-serve plastic clam-shell containers or be retrieved by the attendee after having slipped on a single-use sterile glove (via an innovative glove-donning machine contracted by Hilton).
  8. Require attendees to wear masks to protect those not yet vaccinated. Additional disposable masks will be available onsite.
  9. All hotel areas are cleaned continuously in accordance with Hilton’s COVID-based regulations.  See the Hotel Information Tab for more info.
  10. Traditional neck lanyards and rubber wrist bracelets will be color-coded (green, amber, red) to signal to others the attendee’s preference for social distancing. (Green—I am ok with you getting close; Red—please keep your distance).
  11. Traffic into and out of conference panel/session spaces and within those spaces will be one-directional where possible.
  12. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed liberally throughout the hotel and conference space.
  13. Self-use digital thermometer stations will be available at the registration desk and the exhibit space.

The Hilton Main has numerous OAHU’s (Outside Air Handling Units), and MAU’s (Make Up Air Units) that feed into its AHU’s (Air Handling Units) throughout the building. The AHU’s have a combination of return air, and outside air that is conditioned and circulated in the building. Below is a snapshot that shows an example of this. You will see on the left hand side of the diagram “OA Dpr Output” this is the percentage of outside air being brought into the duct, and “RA Dpr Output” is the percentage of return air that is being circulated into the duct, where it then goes into a dual filter, tempered and pushed into the supply fans and out. The Hilton Main also uses MERV 13 filters in its units which traps 98% of airborne particles, and are changed quarterly by a professional HVAC company. The air is filtered coming into the Outside/ Make Up Air units, again when coming into the duct for the Air Handling Units (as you see below) and then again before being disbursed into individual meeting rooms/ ballroom Salons.

The Hilton Main has the ability to change the percentages of outside air to 100%, if needed/requested by events.  There are some challenges regarding humidity with this, but still an option.

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