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Construction expo still draws Las Vegas attendees despite virus fear

Coronavirus concern isn’t scaring attendees away from the country’s biggest construction trade show in Las Vegas this week, but visitors said they’re still being cautious.

“This is a golden opportunity to be able to support our industry,” Michael Poirier of Peoria, Illinois, said. “We’ve got meetings with clients and customers, and the reality is I don’t think it’s risky as long as you use good sense.”

Common sense proved a theme among cautious conventiongoers like Jill Arendt, a certified occupational health nurse who attended the show with her husband, Peter. She said she has been sharing tips with other attendees, such as avoiding contact with other people’s hands and washing their own as often as possible.

“I have a bit of trepidation, I guess, but what I would say is that you have to be vigilant,” Arendt said. “You really shouldn’t be in big crowds if you don’t have to, but we’re from Wisconsin and planned this for a long time.”

The 2020 ConExpo-Con/Ag construction equipment show, which is held every three years, runs Tuesday through Saturday at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

In February, organizers said registration was on course to exceed 130,000 attendees. Final numbers won’t be available until the final day, but a spokeswoman said Tuesday that this year’s registrations have outpaced 2017’s.

Handshakes are out, but rubbing elbows and bumping fists work just as well for industry experts looking to make connections at the expo.

“That’s what I think they’re calling this, the fist-bump convention,” said Neil Moss, who came to the convention from Oregon City, Oregon. “But we have a booth here, so if the customer wants to shake my hand, I’ll shake his hand.”

Some attendees on Tuesday wore stickers or buttons that read “No offense, just common sense,” with two clasped hands circled in red and crossed through.

“And really, look around you,” she said. “Who’s coughing? Who’s sick? Then stay the heck away.”

The vast majority of attendees are from the United States or Canada, a spokeswoman for the convention said, but some registrants from China, South Korea and Italy were forced to cancel because of travel restrictions.

“I came all the way from South Africa and here’s my prevention,” Bianca Herbst said, pulling out her phone to flash a selfie. “What I did on the airplane was, with a little sense of humor, I made a little smiley on my mask.”

But Herbst didn’t wear a mask to the convention, nor did most other attendees on Tuesday. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, face masks are ineffective or unnecessary for healthy people who don’t work in health care.

Instead, Arndt and other attendees were armed with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, with many seen whipping out their travel-sized bottles immediately after touching door handles at the convention hall.

Arndt said that everyone, not just convention-goers, should visit the CDC’s website to learn as much as they can about COVID-19 and preventing its spread.

“I’m just keeping it common sense,” Moss said. “I don’t live my life in fear. I’ve just got to do what I’ve got to do.”

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

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