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High Point Market and Pre-Market 'full steam ahead' amid threat of spreading coronavirus

The market, expected to draw thousands of guests from around the world, will have an ambulance on site to assist with anyone needing to be quarantined

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Despite the threat of the spreading coronavirus, the High Point Market and Pre-Market are both on schedule to happen as planned. They are expected to draw thousands of people from around the world and billions of dollars to the Piedmont Triad city.

The invitation-only High Point Pre-Market will take place March 16-17, while the much larger High Point Market will take place April 25-29.

"Ironically, (the spreading coronavirus) actually helped pre-market. Because all of us have our goods ready to show," Doug Bassett, Chairman of the High Point Pre-Market Sponsor Committee, told WFMY News 2 on Sunday.

Bassett said the number of registered furniture dealers is about 10% higher this year compared to previous years, where between 100 and 110 insiders registered. 

The reason for the boost?

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"A lot of these dealers, particularly the very largest chains, often fly to Asia on buying trips in February and March. And those trips have been canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak in China and throughout Asia," said Bassett.

"Another fact is these dealers are very worried about their supply chains. Where they are going to get furniture throughout 2020," Bassett added.

There are no registered Pre-Market guests traveling from Italy, China, or Iran, according to Bassett.

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"I feel fortunate (High Point Pre-Market) is coming as soon as it is. As we know, and we've been watching the numbers, there is the risk this virus is going to spread to more states (in the U.S.) and that more people are going to infected in coming weeks," said Bassett.

The Pre-Market events will have a number of health safeguards, including an increased number of handwashing and hand sanitizing stations.

"There are going to be extra handwashing stations. In fact some of the buildings have given exhibitors the chance to sponsor things like that," Bassett.

Market organizers have previously outlined steps designed to prevent the virus' spread and quarantine anyone if needed. 

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According to their latest public update on February 28, the High Point Market will have a medical unit equipped to screen guests and an ambulance on standby to isolate any suspected infected people. Housekeeping and food service workers will follow "more stringent" procedures including frequent handwashing, crews will wipe down touched surfaces more often, and more hand sanitizer stations will be installed around the market buildings.

WFMY News 2 reached out to the High Point Market Authority for an update on Sunday, and a spokesperson said there was no further information today, but any new announcements would be posted on the market's website page dedicated to COVID-19.

Tom Conley, High Point Market Authority's president and CEO, did speak with the Architectural Digest magazine on Thursday, explaining how the market decided to move forward with its major spring event set for April 25-29.

"I think this industry just depends too much on Market—not only to see new product but right now, more importantly, because of how the coronavirus has affected China and other Asian countries—to be able to have buyers and sellers get together in a room, look each other in the eye, and talk about what they can reasonably expect [on business concerns such as] the delivery of product," Conley told Architectural Digest in an article posted on the publication's website.

Conley also confirmed that no people in the industry from China have registered to attend the High Point Market in late April, according to the Architectural Digest article.

"As I understand from our colleagues, 90% were pleased that we were continuing with Market. Yes, Market is going to be soft," Conley told Architectural Digest. "There are people from either a corporate or individual perspective who won’t come. But the extent of that, at this stage of the game? Nobody knows."

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