SXSW Festival Canceled by the City of Austin Due to Coronavirus Concerns

The annual South by Southwest festival (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas, has been canceled due to growing concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The festival organizers announced the cancelation on its website on Friday, pointing out that it is the first time in more than three decades that the March event will not take place.

“The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions,” the statement on the festival’s website states. “We are devastated to share this news with you. ‘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.”

The festival had been scheduled for March 13 through March 22.

The abrupt cancelation comes after the city’s public health department said that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer” — however, the festival organizers said they would “honor” the city’s decision.

There have been 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Texas as of Friday. Health officials say there is no evidence of community spread in the state.

While no cases have been confirmed in Travis County — which includes the Austin area — local health officials said Tuesday that at least one person was being tested for the virus, according to the Statesman. That person is said to have recently traveled to an area where COVID-19 is “prevalent,” though officials did not specify where.

The cancelation leaves many concerned about the economic impact it will have on the city, as the festival usually brings a boom to local businesses and is a place where creatives get their name out.

“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,” SXSW said in its statement about the cancelation of the festival.

“We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love,” the statement concluded. “Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.”

Kumail Nanjiani applauded the festival for “making the right decision” to cancel.

“Sxsw is one of my favorite festivals,” the actor, 42, wrote on Twitter after the news broke. “Canceling it was the responsible thing to go. I know this sucks for many people for whom this was a massive opportunity. But we’re kind of in an unprecedented situation here and caution is key. Thank you for the making the right decision.”

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