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South By Southwest is Cancelled Due To COVID-19 Concerns

by Anne Bothwell 6 Mar 2020 4:08 PM

Fears of COVID19 led officials to declare a disaster in Austin and cancel the conference.


Updated report from KUT Public Radio’s Andrew Weber

South by Southwest has been cancelled, due to concerns around COVID-19 .

“I’ve gone ahead and declared a local disaster in the city, and associated with that, have issued an order that effectively cancels South by Southwest for this year,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler at a press conference Friday.

Adler’s announcement comes in tandem with one from Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, who said the declaration will last a week, though it could be extended. Public health officials say there are no cases of COVID-19 in Austin or Travis County, but that the decision was made out of an abundance of caution.

“This is a decision based on expert medical opinion,” Eckhardt said.

City officials were concerned about large numbers of people in close contact at the annual event, which was scheduled to start March 13 and run until March 22. They also were worried about multiple registered guests who were from areas where the disease had spread.

“We are devastated to share this news with you,” SXSW posted on its website. “‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”

Organizers are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, according to the statement: “We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.”

In the past week alone, roughly 25 brands – including Twitter, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Warner Media – have pulled out of the festival, citing concerns over the coronavirus.

Last year, the festival brought in an estimated $356 million and drew more than 400,000 attendees from across the globe. SXSW organizers have deferred to the city and county in its decision-making about whether to cancel the festival.

The coronavirus has led to the deaths of 14 people in the U.S. and infected more than 100,000 people since late January.