Miami Bitcoin conference: Some attendees say they have COVID

Thousands flocked to Miami last week for the Bitcoin 2021 conference, which was said to be one of the largest, if not the largest, cryptocurrency conferences the world had ever seen.

Thousands flocked to Miami last week for the Bitcoin 2021 conference, which was said to be one of the largest, if not the largest, cryptocurrency conferences the world had ever seen.

AFP/Getty Images

Thousands flocked to Miami last week for the Bitcoin 2021 conference, said to be the largest-ever cryptocurrency conference.

Now, just days later, some conference attendees have posted on social media saying they’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

Luke Martin, who hosts a Bitcoin podcast, tweeted Thursday:

“Last weekend in Miami was incredible…surrounded by smart, humble, hard-working, and genuinely good people. Love you all. I also feel like I got hit by a truck with a pinch of COVID. So I’m catching up on sleep, water, and food. Back to work tomorrow.”

Larry Cermak, research director at the Block, a cryptocurrency news and information website, tweeted that he has not fallen ill but that “everyone” he was with while in Miami did. He later changed the name on his Twitter account.

Eric Wall, chief investment officer at investment firm Arcane Assets, said he tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the conference and that he was “not vaccinated,” before taking his account private, Vice reported.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who spoke live at the event, told the Miami Herald Friday that no one he knows tested positive after the conference and that his office is aware of “a number of unconfirmed tweets” about people falling ill with COVID during the conference.

“Based on public data from hospitals and other watchdogs, we have no reason to believe the conference was a ‘Super Spreader,’ ” Suarez said in a statement sent via text message. “At this point, with the information we know, this characterization of the event is not only unfair but also irresponsible — Miami played host to over 50k people throughout the weekend while the conference sold 12k tickets.”

Conference attendees were not required to wear masks or be vaccinated, and no temperature checks were done at entrance gates. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in May suspended all COVID-19 orders issued across the state, including mask mandates, and left it up to businesses to decide their own rules on whether they wanted to require masks or other COVID safety measures.

Businesses cannot require people to show proof of vaccination, however, as that goes against Florida law.

A representative for conference organizer BTC Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for host Mana Wynwood declined to comment, saying it was deferring to local health officials on the matter.

The conference did have the makings for a potential COVID outbreak, with at least 12,000 people, most maskless, circulating through an enclosed space. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends people avoid large events and gatherings. Some people who attended might have been vaccinated, but it’s unknown how many.

It’s also difficult to know where someone actually fell ill with the disease. People can get COVID from anyone who is infected, anywhere, and the official conference was surrounded by numerous unofficial events around the city.

Health departments usually rely on contact tracers to help determine where outbreaks occur. Contact tracers act like virus detectives, tracking down newly infected people and those with whom they may have had close contact in an effort to isolate them and stop the disease from spreading.

The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County did not immediately respond to the Miami Herald’s request for comment.

Originally slated for Los Angeles, Bitcoin 2021 organizers announced in March that they would move the conference to Miami amid concerns about California’s pandemic restrictions — and to capitalize on the city’s gathering momentum in the tech industry.

“Here in the City of Miami we take the adherence to CDC and Florida DOH guidelines very seriously as our community navigates the current stage of the pandemic,” reads Suarez statement. “We’re in constant communication with the health authorities and will continue monitoring this situation and we hope everyone who visited Miami is healthy and doing fine.”

This article will be updated.

There’s never a dull moment in Florida — and Michelle covers it as a Real Time/Breaking News Reporter for the Miami Herald. She graduated with honors from Florida International University, where she served as the editor-in-chief of Student Media PantherNOW. Previously, she worked as a news writer at WSVN Channel 7 and is currently a Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism fellow.