BREAKING: SXSW cancelled amid Coronavirus concerns

AUSTIN- The mayor of Austin, Steve Adler, has declared a city-wide medical emergency, and has therefore cancelled the world-renowned music, film and technology festival, SXSW for 2020.

“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 this year,” Austin Mayor, Steve Adler, said in crowded press conference Friday afternoon.

Adler was confirming that while there is not imminent threat to Austin, they see an opportunity to prevent one from descending upon the city. Several of the conference’s biggest names had already pulled out in the days leading up to the cancellation. Netflix, Ozzy Osbourne, and Apple are among some of the top names that backed out this week.

Due to having multiple guests from international locations, where there are Coronavirus cases, increases the risk of losing control of tracking individuals exposed to COVID-19 poses are health risk to the Austin area. City health officials acknowledged that they can’t control where guests are originating from. SXSW sees visitors from all over the world each year.

The city’s concern is that some guests would need to placed under quarantine upon arrival and would instead disobey that order and attend the festival anyway. This makes it difficult to mitigate the impact of possible exposure to the Coronavirus. This is a risk with any mass gathering, and various city officials reassured that all mass gatherings in Austin will not be cancelled this year.

When asked what the festival’s response has been to this city declaration Adler stated that, “SXSW wants to do anything and everything that is best to do to keep the community safe.” SXSW published a statement on their website, saying, “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.” Read the full statement here.

City health officials reminded citizens to employ best hygiene practices, including frequent hand washing, using disinfectants, coughing into one’s elbow, and to opt for a ‘fist bump or bow’ versus close contact.

Stephanie Haden, Director of Austin Public Health stated, “This will help us to mitigate the spread of diseases, that we implement a disease mitigation plan.”

Close and sustained physical contact that is inherent at festivals like SXSW poses a considerable risk to the Austin community. City officials reiterated that this decision was not made out of panic or fear, but rather a careful measured to decision to mitigate the spread of disease.

The event had been scheduled to take place from March 13 to March 22. This is the first time in 34 years that it has been canceled, according to the organizers.

There are no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Austin or Travis county at this time.