The first of what could be several roofing industry events has fallen victim to the coronavirus (known as COVID-19).

Officials with the North/East Roofing Contractors Association (NERCA) on Wednesday officially postponed their annual convention scheduled for next week in Atlantic City. Thousands of roofing contractors and other industry professionals were planning to attend the 94th annual convention and trade show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, but the spread of the virus is causing organizations to take extra precautions.

“Over the past few weeks, NERCA’s leadership and staff have been monitoring regional and worldwide developments related to COVID-19,” wrote NERCA President Bradley Sontz in a letter delivered to planned attendees. “With many countries recommending self-quarantine and currently a handful of North East region states, including the state of New Jersey, have declared a state of emergency. It is no longer practical nor ethical to continue with our annual convention.

“While this was not an easy decision, and unprecedented in NERCA’s history, we feel it is in the best interest of safety and well-being of our membership, vendors, speakers and the public at-large to reschedule the show.”

A new date has not been determined. Registration refunds will be provided to attendees who complete and submit an online form at nerca.org by May 1, 2020.

Mass gatherings, from sporting events to group meetings and conventions, are being cancelled across the country as the nation grips for a virus that is making people ill across the globe. Coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China in January, and prompted federal officials to declare a public health emergency for the United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community response. Restrictions on travel and large gatherings were not implemented immediately and only recently became viable as the virus, and corresponding fears, began to spread.

To date, more than 119,000 people have been infected with the virus, and more than 4,000 have died. China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea have been struck the hardest, so far. The reported number of known cases in the U.S. exceeded 1,700 across 47 states as of March 13.

Coronavirus is spread easily between people who are in close contact, within about 6 feet of each other. What’s made the pandemic more difficult to contain is that infection can occur before people show symptoms, which include: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Anyone that may be sick is encouraged to stay home, avoid public areas and especially limit contact with people in high-risk categories like the elderly and those with already compromised immune systems.

New Jersey reported its first death — a 69-year-old man with underlying health issues — from the virus on Tuesday. The state total was 15 at the time of publication, and 31 other cases are under investigation. All 21 counties in the state are under a state-of-emergency declaration.

The NERCA convention may not be the only roofing industry event to have a similar fate. The 2020 IIBEC International Convention and Trade Show scheduled from March 26-31 in Houston was postponed as of March 12. IIBEC officials are working with its partners to determine potential dates.

"This was a difficult decision; however, the safety of our members, attendees, and their families is our primary concern and responsibility," IIBEC's website states. "We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through the logistics associated with this decision."

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) is also monitoring the situation closely as it prepares for Roofing Day III, April 21-22, the largest annual fly-in event the roofing industry started in order to lobby members of Congress in Washington D.C.

“The NRCA continues to closely monitor the outbreaks throughout the U.S. with a wait-and-see approach regarding Roofing Day in D.C., the upcoming Roofing Alliance meeting in Sarasota, Fla., and other NRCA meetings,” said NRCA CEO Reid Ribble in statement to members. “Currently, there are no sustained issues in the Chicago, Washington, D.C., or Sarasota areas.”