CES 2022: GM, Google, Intel are latest to drop out over COVID surge

With COVID cases surging, companies are backing out of attending CES in person.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most incredible tech coming soon.

CES 2022 on Thursday lost Google and General Motors, the latest companies to confirm their cancellation of in-person plans at the Las Vegas tech trade show and their shift to a virtual presence. The two companies join T-Mobile, Intel, Lenovo, TikTok, Meta, Waymo and many others making such a change over the past week due to an uptick in coronavirus cases and the omicron variant. 

“We’ve been closely monitoring the development of the omicron variant, and have decided that this is the best choice for the health and safety of our teams. We will continue to collaborate closely with both CTA and our partners to identify and support virtual opportunities, and we look forward to sharing the latest Google innovations with you all,” a Google spokesperson said regarding the withdrawal.

Reuters reports that GM, which was set to have CEO Mary Barra give a keynote speech in person, will not send employees or executives to the show. Barra’s keynote will be delivered virtually.

Despite the lengthening list of departing exhibitors, the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES, said Thursday that additional exhibitors have signed up for physical space on the show floor.

“While we recently received 42 exhibitor cancellations (less than 7% of our exhibit floor),” the CTA said, “since last Friday we’ve added 60 new exhibitors for our in person event.” 

Though higher-profile companies are announcing withdrawals, the CTA emphasized that the show floor also plays host to small and medium-size companies. Past attendees looking for that exposure have included startups with specialized computer technology and firms that produce pizza-making robots

But the rapid spread of the omicron variant and rise in COVID-19 cases are making many people uneasy. The CTA pointed out its vaccination and masking requirements and the availability of COVID tests for those attending in person. But an increasing number of companies decided to go digital-only.

On Tuesday, T-Mobile said that CEO Mike Sievert is no longer scheduled to deliver a keynote presentation either in person or virtually and that the company plans to “significantly limit” its physical presence at the show. 

T-Mobile said the “vast majority” of its team won’t head to Vegas, though the company will remain a sponsor. “We are prioritizing the safety of our team and other attendees with this decision,” the carrier said in a statement. “T-Mobile’s entire team looks forward to an in-person CES 2023, which we hope includes an on-stage keynote in front of a live audience.”

Meta and Twitter, meanwhile, also decided not to attend in person. 

Meta said it will participate in the event virtually. “Out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees, we won’t be attending CES in-person due to the evolving public health concerns related to COVID-19,” Meta announced.

Twitter made a similar statement. “The safety and health of our people and our partners as our #1 priority. With that in mind, due to the spike in COVID cases across the country in the past week, we’ve decided to cancel our in-person presence at CES next month,” Twitter said.

On Wednesday, TikTok and AT&T followed.

“In light of the increase in positive COVID-19 cases across the country, TikTok has decided to host a virtual TikTok CES experience for our brands and partners,” the company said.

An AT&T spokesperson said that “the health and safety of our employees and customers is a top priority, so we have decided to forgo in-person participation at CES 2022.”

On Thursday, Lenovo joined in, saying it had decided to put the kibosh on its in-person activities for the show. Intel also confirmed a change in plans, saying it will scale down its presence. 

“After consulting with health officials and in the spirit of Intel’s safety policy, our plans for CES will move to a digital-first, live experience, with minimal on-site staff,” Intel said.

A spokesperson for Nvidia said the company has been “cautious from the start” and is set to deliver a virtual address on Jan. 4 at 8 a.m. PT (11 a.m. ET).

Amazon and Pinterest have also dropped out of attending CES in person.

Citing the health and safety of its employees, an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement that “due to the quickly shifting situation and uncertainty around the omicron variant, we will no longer have an on-site presence at CES.” A spokesperson for Ring, Amazon’s home security subsidiary, issued an identical statement.

The decisions follow the US reaching the grim milestone of 800,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to numbers from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. With the emergence of the highly infectious omicron variant — which is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the US — cases are rapidly on the rise again. 

The CTA said it feels that with vaccination and masking requirements; availability of COVID-19 tests; and social distancing measures and lower attendance, the event can go on. CES 2022 is scheduled to take place virtually and in person from Jan. 5 to 8, with press day on Jan. 4.

Several companies will still have press conferences the day before the show starts, including some that no longer plan to have a physical presence at the tech show. CNET will be livestream these on our main YouTube page and our CNET Highlights YouTube page as part of our CES 2022 coverage. The current schedule for that press day follows.

CES 2022 press day, Jan. 4 (all times are Pacific):

7 a.m.: AMD and TCL

8 a.m. LG Electronics and Nvidia

9 a.m.: Hisense

10 a.m.: Intel

11 a.m.: Qualcomm

12 p.m.: John Deere

1 p.m.: Canon

2 p.m.: Ottonomy

3 p.m.: Hyundai

5 p.m.: Sony

6:30 p.m.: Samsung

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