As professionals and fans were heading to C2E2, the stock market was plummeting and the new virus now known as COVID-19 was spreading throughout the world.  Inside the McCormick Place convention center, though, the show floor was as crowded as it has been every other year.  Maybe even more so: ReedPop VP Michael Armstrong told Chicago’s WBBM Radio that attendance was up, not down, with an estimated 95,000 attendees topping last year’s attendance of 90,000.

The organizers of C2E2 announced that they had "implemented enhanced cleaning and sanitization across the show, including adhering to the recommendations set forth in the U.S. EPA’s Emerging Pathogen Policy regarding cleaning disinfectants effective against the COVID-19 virus" but did not get more specific than that.  While some creators and attendees were following the lead of artist Mitch Gerads, who announced on Twitter that he would be sticking to fist bumps, others were hugging friends and shaking hands with gusto.

Midtown Comics said in a Facebook post that it was canceling its program for the show, as the three creators it planned to bring in from Italy and South Korea could not travel due to health restrictions.

ICv2 spoke with two small Chicago-based publishers, Magnetic Press and Iron Circus Comics, about how the epidemic in China was affecting their printing schedules.  Mike Kennedy of Magnetic Press said that his company had planned for the annual Chinese New Year break, when most presses close down. Because of the coronavirus, though, the Chinese government ordered the presses to stay closed for an additional 10 days.  "Even then when they did open, a lot of the plants opened at half capacity," Kennedy said, "and they were trying to catch up, so they were already behind the curve."  Magnetic shifted some printing to Hong Kong, but getting new quotes and proofs added some time to the production schedule there.  "All told, I think because of the coronavirus we probably lost about three or four weeks,” he said.  That means that April titles will slip into May and some May titles into June, but Kennedy expects the June titles to be back on schedule.

Like Kennedy, Spike Trotman of Iron Circus Comics had planned for the Chinese New Year but was taken by surprise by what followed.  "It just so happened to hit directly where we do the vast majority of our Chinese printing,” she said, "and it also happened to close down the port that our books ship out of."  As a result, she said, "We’ve got books in all stages of production right now, all the way from sort of dead on the press to finished and trapped in port."

The delay is costing money: "I have a small fortune in back orders at my [distributor] right now for these books," Trotman said.  "We’re talking thousands and thousands of books that are pre-sold, thousands and thousands."

Nonetheless, she regards the problem as no more than “super irritating” in terms of her business, because she has set aside funds for just such a contingency. Larger publishers she notes, have a longer time frame and also are unlikely to be seriously affected, but this is likely to be a difficult time for smaller businesses as well as creators who are self-publishing on Kickstarter and can’t get books and other premiums in time to fulfill their pledges.

Aside from manufacturing, the epidemic is also starting to affect future events. Emerald City Comic Con, which is scheduled for next weekend, used its official Twitter to quash rumors that they would cancel or postpone the show, but Trotman pointed out that GDC, Game Developers Conference, has already announced its event would be delayed. That leaves game studios on the hook for exhibit fees and travel costs that probably won’t be refunded. “This is hurting people,” she said.