For the first time since 1987, the annual event South by Southwest (SXSW) will not take place this March in Austin, Texas. Amid escalating COVID-19 coronavirus fears, the city decided to shut the event down.
In a statement, SXSW said that the city had cancelled the March dates for the music, arts, and technology festival and conferences, and that "SXSW will faithfully follow the city’s directions."
SXSW was scheduled to take place between March 13 and March 22. The festival is perhaps the largest yet of the numerous events to have been postponed amid the global outbreak. Some public health experts have expressed concerns that large gatherings of people could become breeding grounds from the virus.
Related: Live updates on COVID-19
SXSW said the decision from the city was a sharp change from just Wednesday, when Austin officials stated "there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer."
That view turned out to be short lived.
"This situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision," SXSW said in a statement, adding "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.."
COVID-19 appears to be spreading unchecked in parts of the United States (particularly in Washington State), as cases of community spread continue to outpace the federal government's limited and botched early testing efforts. Other countries, such as South Korea, have been able to more successfully track and fight the virus due to extensive testing regimes.
The overwhelming majority of people who contract the virus will experience mild cases that are not life threatening. However, it is important to avoid spreading the virus because a small but not insignificant minority of the infected will experience severe symptoms and may die.
Individuals should wash their hands frequently and follow the advice of local public health officials and their doctors.
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