KVUE — For the first time in its history, South by Southwest has been canceled, as the City of Austin declares a local emergency due to concerns about the coronavirus spreading.
In an announcement on Friday, March 6, by Mayor Steve Adler, Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Dr. Mark Escott of the Interim Health Authority, and director of Austin Public Health Stephanie Hayden, the City of Austin declared a local emergency, canceling the spring festival as the COVID-19 virus causes worldwide concern.
Escott said the decision was made after weighing options to mitigate the risk of the disease. He said factors such as the close proximity of participants and attendance of international guests led officials to cancel the event entirely.
This announcement follows several major organizations and companies deciding not to attend the festival, along with a Change.org petition signed by tens of thousands of people calling for the festival to be canceled.
The cancellation is a major decision from the city, which had said there was no evidence closing SXSW would make the community safer. Last year's event brought an estimated $355 million to Austin, the single most profitable event for the City of Austin's hospitality industry.
SXSW has posted an announcement on its website. It states, in part, "We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ."
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