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COVID was an unwelcome guest at PAX East convention

Thousands of people attended PAX East in Boston last weekend.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Last weekend’s PAX East gaming convention at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center featured diligent precautions against the spread of COVID-19. Yet the virus still managed to crash the party.

Cambridge-based Pandemonium Books & Games, which operated a booth at the convention, said that one of its employees reported feeling ill on Thursday, the first day of the event. The worker went home and took a rapid COVID test, which came up positive. Store owner Tyler Stewart said the worker was probably infected during a gaming event held at the store on the previous Sunday.

COVID tests were given to all store workers who’d been in contact with the infected employee; none of them were infected. Two other people who don’t work at the store but were scheduled to work the PAX booth did test positive, but these two didn’t attend the event.


Stewart said he has no way of tracking down any PAX attendees who might have visited the booth on Thursday, when the infected worker was present. But he posted the information on the store’s webpage and publicized it on gaming websites, in hopes that potentially infected visitors will take precautions and get themselves tested. All PAX East attendees had to show proof that they’d been vaccinated against COVID, and face masks were required at all times.

It’s unclear whether anyone was infected at the convention. It can take several days for a person exposed to COVID to show symptoms.

Penny Arcade, the Seattle company that sponsors PAX East, did not respond to a request for more information about the COVID infection. Penny Arcade never reveals the attendance at the event. Neither does the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. But it’s likely that thousands of visitors were on hand for the event, which takes up much of the floor space inside the vast convention center.


Another big entertainment convention, Anime Boston, is set for late May at the Hynes Convention Center. Kristen Leiding, chair of the convention, said the COVID incident would have no impact on the event.

“Reported incidents such as these are part of the reason why we have decided to keep our vaccine and mask policies in place for this year,” Leiding said in an e-mail. “We planned carefully for months and we feel prepared with the policies we have in place.”

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.