Was Bitcoin Miami a COVID Superspreader Event? Too Early to Say

The plural of anecdote is not data.

Jun 11, 2021 at 6:50 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 1:10 p.m. UTC

The evidence remains anecdotal that last weekend's Bitcoin 2021 conference in Miami resulted in a significant number of COVID-19 infections.

Many other attendees may have caught the common cold.

According to the testimony of many attendees who were there, including CoinDesk's own staff, it was an event of many packed rooms, little masking and what appears to have been a subset of unvaccinated participants.

"Went to #Bitcoin Miami. According to my @ouraring, I’m averaging about 5.5 hrs of sleep over the last 10 days (not the best for immunity)," Twitter user Jeff Jagoe tweeted. "Haven’t got a test because I feel great." 

"Attended, had access everywhere, spoke to hundreds," Bitcoin core admin Alex Lawn tweeted. He added that he "had very little sleep and probably not enough food so immune system should be lower. I'm still in Miami and personally [know no one who] became ill attending."

Additional reporting

CoinDesk reached out to its network in the crypto community to ask what people knew about participants who came back with COVID-19 infections, the prevalence of vaccinations and of testing following the conference.

Crypto investor Eric Wall appears to have been beset by one of the more serious cases, tweeting Thursday that he had "Just tested positive for COVID" and sharing a photo of himself in an ambulance or hospital attached to medical equipment.

It should be obvious that CoinDesk doesn't have a way to independently verify any of these claims, nor has prior reporting on COVID-19 at Bitcoin 2021 shown any evidence of seeking verification. All findings up to this point are largely circumstantial and suspect.

Respondents to CoinDesk's inquiries asked to remain nameless because it's a story pertaining to personal health.

One staffer at a Bitcoin mining startup told CoinDesk he knew of one person in their travel group who came back with a positive test. 

"It seems most people who went to the conference itself were fine. People who went to the clubs, not so much," this person said via text message. "Seems to be also people infecting coworkers rather than attendees affecting each other."

By and large, most respondents to CoinDesk's inquiries indicated that they had gone to Miami fully vaccinated, it should be noted.

Another entrepreneur in the industry traveled in a small group and said two unvaccinated members of the group came back with a positive COVID-19 test, neither of whom were vaccinated. The entire group is feeling sick, however. The respondent was fully vaccinated.

A spokesperson for a payments startup indicated that many of the team members were feeling ill as well, but no one had any positive COVID-19 tests so far.

It came from social media

The discussion seems to have begun when Arcane Assets' Eric Wall indicated on Twitter that he had come back with a positive test (he has since made his account private). Subsequently Luke Martin, creator of CoinistBot, said he had a positive test, but that tweet has since been deleted. An anonymous crypto trader named @cryptokaleo also wrote about having a positive test

"Knowing that I would get it would I go back and do the same thing again? 100%. Honestly the average cold I get is worse than this," the account wrote.

It should be noted that since the claim can't be verified and it's from an pseudonymous account, this could simply be a post intended to provoke a response. That said, there are posts on that feed that seem to come from the Miami event in early June.

Some respondents raised questions about whether an infection that occurred in early June would show up so quickly in a test.

CoinDesk contacted the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out if they were tracking people who participated in Bitcoin 2021 but has not received responses as of press time.

Zack Seward contributed reporting.

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