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Charleston tech company responds to coronavirus by moving annual gathering to the web

Ray August (copy) (copy)

Daniel Island-based Benefitfocus is moving its annual One Place conference to the web after new cases of coronavirus were found in South Carolina. Staff/Brad Nettles

A Daniel Island-based technology company is responding to concerns of coronavirus' spread by moving its annual conference to the web. 

Benefitfocus, which makes software where employees across the country select and buy benefits, said Monday morning guests of its One Place event will now convene online. The step was necessary to protect attendees' health, the company said in a press release.

The conference was scheduled to take place from March 17-19 at the Gaillard Center in downtown Charleston. Last year, One Place attracted 1,200 visitors. 

“With the growing spread of the coronavirus and the uncertainty surrounding it, we have decided to shift One Place 2020 to be a digital conference,” Ray August, CEO of Benefitfocus, said in a press release. “I’m looking forward to our team delivering the innovation and announcements we had originally planned in an exciting new way online.”

Last week, Benefitfocus was still planning to hold its conference in person. But, on Friday, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced two presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in two South Carolina residents, one in a Kershaw County woman in her 80s and another in a Charleston County woman in her 30s. 

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The Charleston woman became sick after returning from a trip to Europe; she had a mild case of COVID-19 and self-quarantined at home. On her return trip, she passed through the Charleston International Airport. 

On Sunday, DHEC announced four additional cases in the Midlands and Upstate. 

Benefitfocus is reimbursing attendees for their registration fees, and reaching out to people directly to explain changes to the event. The company is encouraging people to cancel hotel bookings and travel arrangements; Benefitfocus is automatically canceling hotel bookings made on its website.

A spokesman for Benefitfocus said the decision was made over the weekend in large part because of the increase in confirmed cases around the country. The new cases in South Carolina also weighed in to the decision.

It is too early to say what the financial impact of moving the event will be to the company, the spokesman said.

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.

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