(CNN) -- One of the most closely-watched annual tech conferences, CES, is going ahead with plans to hold an in-person event in two weeks, even as a growing number of prominent technology companies are pulling the plug on their plans to attend in person amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Amazon, Meta, T-Mobile, Twitter and Pinterest confirmed this week that they no longer plan to attend CES in Las Vegas early next month, citing health concerns and uncertainty from the recent spike in Covid-19 cases.

"The health and safety of our employees is our top priority. Due to the quickly shifting situation and uncertainty around the Omicron variant, we will no longer have an on-site presence at CES," Amazon spokesperson Sarah Sobolewski said in a statement. The company still plans to have a virtual presence.

"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," Kamran Mumtaz, a spokesperson for Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, said in a statement. "We will participate virtually as much as possible and continue to collaborate with the CTA around CES, which remains an important event for Meta, our clients and industry partners," Mumtaz added, referring to the Consumer Technology Association, which hosts the event.

Some media outlets, including the Verge and CNN, have also begun to cancel their plans to cover CES in person, after many were already planning to send smaller teams than usual.

Even before companies started pulling out this year, CES was expected to be a smaller-than-usual affair, but CTA confirmed Wednesday it has no plans to pull the plug on in-person attendance altogether. Instead, it plans to implement safety measures including vaccine mandates and mask and testing requirements. CES will also have online components for companies and attendees who won't be going in person.


"CES 2022 will be in person on January 5-8 in Las Vegas with strong safety measures in place, and our digital access is also available for people that don’t wish to, or can’t travel to Las Vegas. Our mission remains to convene the industry and give those who cannot attend in person the ability to experience the magic of CES digitally.

While we recently received 42 exhibitor cancellations (less than 7% of our exhibit floor), since last Friday we've added 60 new exhibitors for our in person event. Registrations for both our digital access and our Las Vegas event are continuing to show strong momentum, with thousands more registrations in the last few days.

CES 2022 will go forward as important innovation for world health and safety, mobility and solving problems will be exhibited. Furthermore, thousands of smaller and medium sized companies rely on CES for their business. We have increased our official count to over 2200 exhibitors and as announced yesterday many of our top elected officials from both political parties will be at CES.

Given CES’ comprehensive health measures -- vaccination requirement, masking and availability of COVID-19 tests -- coupled with lower attendance and social distancing measures, we are confident that attendees and exhibitors can have a socially distanced but worthwhile and productive event in Las Vegas, as well as a rewarding experience on our digital access." - 

Jean Foster, SVP, Marketing and Communications, CTA

But the company announcements this week are a potential setback for organizers. The upcoming event is set to be the first time CES welcomes back in-person attendees to its annual show since 2020, which took place weeks before the Covid-19 outbreak became a full-blown pandemic. (The event was held virtually last year.)

The situation is reminiscent of the unraveling of another major tech event in February 2020, the Mobile World Congress, which is usually held in Barcelona, Spain but was canceled after more than a dozen big companies pulled out as Covid-19 spread.

The CES situation also points to the ongoing challenges of putting on large, international events, even nearly two years into the pandemic. Earlier this week, the World Economic Forum said its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland would be postponed from next month until early summer.

CES — normally one of the tech industry's splashiest annual conferences that sets the tone for the biggest trends of the year — was a more muted event last year in an all-digital format, with just 1,800 exhibitors compared to the 4,000 exhibitors who attended in person the year before.

In addition to challenges for the industry, participants withdrawing from CES may be bad news for the city of Las Vegas — in a normal year, the economic benefit of the show to the city amounts to around $291 million.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Wednesday applauded CTA for implementing additional safety measures for its show including a requirement for attendees to be vaccinated, providing free COVID-19 test kits to all attendees and digital options. 

“We respect it’s a personal decision to travel or attend events in person, however, CTA has done a terrific job of implementing additional layers of health and safety measures ensuring CES will be a fully vaccinated show, providing complimentary COVID testing kits for their exhibitors and attendees and offering a CES digital experience for anyone unable or not comfortable traveling," LVCVA spokesperson Lori Nelson-Kraft said. "Here at the Las Vegas Convention Center and throughout the Las Vegas destination, we continue to provide the gold standard of all known and available health and safety protocols and continue to follow all guidance by health experts and our local and state leaders.”

CES LAS VEGAS - generic

Attendees head to the convention floor on the first day of the CES tech show Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Telecom giant T-Mobile, a CES sponsor, on Thursday released a statement announcing that it would withdraw from attending the show in person and that its CEO Mike Sievert would no longer give a keynote speech, either in person or virtually. "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," the company said.

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