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The annual event, which brings together the film, interactive media and music industries, was previously scheduled to run March 13-22 in the city.
Adler said he had declared a “local disaster in the city” that had effectively canceled SXSW. He added that the decision had been made based on the recommendation of Austin’s public heath officer and director of public health given the size and nature of the event, which often features concerts where people are in close contact. Travis County, where Austin is located, does not have a confirmed case of the virus, known as COVID-19.
SXSW organizers confirmed the cancellation in a statement on the event website, writing, “SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.”
The statement continued, “We are devastated to share this news with you. ‘The show much 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 also said they were exploring options to reschedule the event, which was expected to draw more than 200,000 people, and were working to offer an online experience for 2020 participants.
In communication with The Austin Chronicle late Friday, SXSW co-founder and managing director Roland Swenson told the outlet that the festival does not have an insurance plan to cover this specific reason for cancellation. “We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather). However bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered.”
In announcing their cancellations, several companies cited concerns over the spread of the virus, which has resulted in 3,000 deaths worldwide and affected over 90,000 people in numerous countries. Though little is known and a vaccine is not currently available, coronavirus causes the virus, which involves flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and respiratory trouble.
Among the emergency responses throughout the U.S. so far, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency over the threat Wednesday following the death of an affected elderly person in Northern California.
Scheduled speakers at SXSW included Damon Lindelof, Lulu Wang, Stephen Colbert, Hillary Clinton, Samantha Bee, Chip and Joanna Gaines, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Kenya Barris. The festival was due to screen 102 films, including the Judd Apatow comedy The King of Staten Island and the medieval drama The Green Knight.
March 7, 4:35 p.m. Updated with insurance detail.
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