In brief

  • Hundreds attended the EthCC conference in Paris earlier this month. 16 have now tested positive for the new coronavirus.
  • Dozens more either have tests pending or have experienced symptoms.
  • Attendees of the conference are being urged to get tested. And stay home.

Sixteen people who attended the Ethereum Community Conference, or EthCC, in Paris on March 3-5, have now tested positive for the new coronavirus. 

With an impressive list of speakers that included Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin and ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin, the annual conference drew in about 600 attendees. 

Of those who tested positive for the virus, six attended a happy hour event on March 4 held by Ethereum development firm Gnosis, and six attended an EthCC after-hours event on March 5, according to a spreadsheet shared among attendees that is tracking the incidences of the virus at the conference.

Just a cough

Jordan Lyall, a product lead for ConsenSys Codefi, a blockchain operating system for commerce and finance is one of the latest conference attendees to report a positive test. He tweeted on Sunday that he had the virus.

The 37-year-old, who is self-isolating in his home outside of Los Angeles, says he is on the upswing after experiencing a range of flu-like symptoms.

Lyall still doesn’t know how he contracted the virus. People at the conference were being careful, he told Decrypt by phone last night. They were giving fist pumps, as opposed to handshakes, and keeping a safe distance from one another. Maybe it was the utensils used to serve food from the buffet. Maybe it was the few people he shook hands with. Maybe it was in the air. 

But he wasn’t expecting to catch it, so when he began to cough on the airplane during the long flight back home from Paris, Lyall initially thought nothing of it. He suffered from allergies, and the dry air on airplanes can aggravate any cough. But over the next few days, he continued to feel strange. 

On his first day home—Monday, March 9—Lyall chalked his tiredness up to jet lag. On Tuesday, he even went to the gym. But then came the shortness of breath. By Wednesday, he began to feel aches, chills and a headache. But never a fever, one of the most common symptoms of the virus, he said. 

When another person who attended EthCC reported positive on March 10, he grew increasingly concerned and called his doctor’s office. They told him not to worry and to self-quarantine.  

But after a few more attendees from the event reported positive for the virus, Lyall pushed for the test, which was finally done on Friday. The results two days later confirmed his suspicions.

The EthCC conference

Zhen Yu Yong—who goes by “Zen”— was the first attendee of the conference to publicly announce that he had tested positive for the virus. The cofounder of decentralized login service provider TorusLabs tweeted that he had been diagnosed on March 11. 

Similar to Lyall, Zen has no idea how he caught the deadly disease. “I was careful with hands, didn't shake any actually,” he told Decrypt via email. Even though he was at other events prior to going to EthCC in Paris, Zen is pretty sure that, with the timing of his symptoms, he caught the coronavirus at EthCC.

Unlike Lyall, however, Zen lives in Singapore, a country that has a much different approach to tackling the disease. Zen was tested immediately on March 10, the first day he began exhibiting symptoms of a high fever and a dry cough. His test results returned the following day, and he was immediately taken to a hospital via ambulance, so he would not spread the disease to friends and family. 

In contrast, Lyall is self-quarantining at home with his wife and two children, ages 8 and 10. He worries they may already have the virus. He said he has already contacted the gym where he went to work out and any people he came in contact with while he was unaware that he was ill. “My worst fear is spreading it to others,” he said. 

The spreadsheet

Anyone who attended EthCC who has the coronavirus symptoms is being asked to enter their names and other information on a spreadsheet that is being kept up to date by Ethereum Foundation Researcher Justin Drake.

Among those infected include German software engineer Afri Schoedon, author of the ERC-777 token standard Jacques Dafflon, investment banker Werner Jacob, Gnosis staffer Marco Correia, Atpar’s Johannes Pfeffer, Chainsafe CEO Aidan Hyman, and CTO of Kleros Clément Lesaege. Three more people whose identities have not been revealed have also reported testing positive since yesterday evening. 

According to the spreadsheet, eight additional individuals still have test results pending—Drake expects at least four of them to report as positive Tuesday—13 more who experienced symptoms or were in close proximity to someone at the conference have been denied a test, and five have been hospitalized. 

In response to the spread of COVID-19, several countries have shut their borders. Italy and Spain have gone into lockdown. Following the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation on Sunday that all events with more than 50 people be cancelled, several US states have asked bars and restaurants to shutter. 

Additionally, numerous cryptocurrency conferences, including Consensus and Ethereal Summit, have moved to the virtual realm or been postponed or cancelled.

Jérôme de Tychey, one of the organizers of the event, told Decrypt that the EthCC conference repeatedly communicated to attendees via email and slack “best practices” for avoiding spread of the disease. “We strongly advised and practiced the elbow and feet shake,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Drake, who spoke with Decrypt via Twitter DM, has a message for anyone who attended EthCC: “Stay the fuck home.”