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CES 2020 attendee reports positive COVID-19 antibody test

Updated April 25, 2020 - 5:29 pm

A CES 2020 attendee who reportedly developed flu-like symptoms after returning home from the conference in January says he found out Monday that his COVID-19 antibody test came back positive.

The news, reported Thursday by American Public Media, is renewing social media speculation about whether the virus was circulating at the consumer electronics show, which drew more than 175,000 attendees from across the globe to Las Vegas from Jan. 7-10.

Less than two weeks later, on Jan. 21, a man in Washington state who had traveled to Wuhan, China, became the first person in the U.S. to test positive.

Michael Webber, who splits his time between Texas and France, told American Public Media that he developed a flu-like illness shortly after returning to Paris.

The Review-Journal contacted Webber on Saturday via email. He said he’d be available for an interview Monday afternoon.

The Consumer Technology Association said in a Saturday statement to the Review-Journal that it isn’t aware of any confirmed cases of COVID-19 connected to CES 2020.

The association also said it hasn’t heard from any health officials, government agencies or corporations about any attendees being exposed to the virus.

“The health, safety and security of our CES attendees are a top priority, and we take precautions every year to protect our participants,” the association said.

“We understand this is a difficult and unsettling time and people are concerned. We share those concerns — especially about our employees’, attendees’, partners’ and workers’ health. We encourage efforts to learn about the spread of the virus and commit to cooperate, consistent with the law, to figure out how COVID-19 was spread and how we can minimize the spread of future viruses.”

After CES 2020 ended in January, a handful of attendees posted on Twitter about how they were sick with flu-like symptoms.

In a Jan. 10 post, Webber wrote: “The lounge at the #LasVegas airport sounds like an infirmary: all sorts of people sneezing & coughing. I think there are 3 reasons for this. 1) hard partying from #CES2020 2) global travelers from many regions in flu season 3) prevalence of conditioned indoor air in LV.”

On Thursday, Webber posted a link to the American Public Media story on Twitter with the comment, “so, it turns out I did have the zombie virus after all.”

Other Twitter users weighed in on the topic this week, too. On Friday, @technosucks wrote: “I went to CES 2020. Then I got super sick. Worst ‘flu’ of my life.”

Also on Friday, @acapata wrote, “Not sure if it was #COVID19 or something else, but I’ve caught the worst flu ever at #CES2020.”

On Friday, @tarahaelle wrote: “Until we have more antibody tests that have been validated, I’m remaining cautiously skeptical about what conclusions we can draw about positive results we’re hearing about. But I’m as curious as anyone whether the #CES2020 #flu was actually #COVID19.”

The Consumer Technology Association is canceling “all or part of several near-term 2020 events,” according to its website. The next CES is slated for Jan. 6-9 in Las Vegas.

The association said it’s taking precautions to ensure its future events “are organized and executed based on recommendations by public health experts, with the health and safety of our participants as our paramount concern.”

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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