AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Concerns about the coronavirus and its spread is now impacting one of Texas’ largest media, technology and music conference and festivals — South By Southwest.
As it stands, a number of companies – including Amazon Studios, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Mashable — have dropped out of the Austin event scheduled to begin March 13.
In addition to drawing heavy-hitters from the world of entertainment — like Kumail Nanjiani, Chris Evans, and CBS’ own Tamron Hall — SXSW has also been a forum for political leaders. This year the “Conversations About America’s Future” symposium is scheduled to feature former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, law professor Anita Hill, and Texas Republican Congressman Will Hurd.
While more than 41,000 people have signed an online petition to cancel the event, SXSW organizers said for now the show will go on as planned.
— SXSW (@sxsw) March 2, 2020
Responding to questions about COVID-19, SXSW issued a statement Monday saying –
“SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event. As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, the 2020 event is proceeding with safety as a top priority.”
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he’s in constant communication with local officials, but that ultimately the decision is in the hands of Travis County health officials.
During a morning press conference Adler said, “There’s no evidence to suggest that canceling South By Southwest makes the community safer.” The Mayor said the decisions concerning the coronavirus and public safety were being made by medical professionals and said governments or corporations had “a seat at that table”.
On Monday, the World Health Organization issued an advisory suggesting people over 60-years-old or with long-term illnesses should avoid crowds to lower their risk of catching the virus. On Wednesday the coronavirus global death toll stood at nearly 3,200, with more than 2,900 of those cases in mainland China. In the U.S, there have been 128 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Last year more than 70,000 attendees made their way to Austin for the SXSW conference, with more than 19,000 coming from outside the U.S.