Austin Cancels SXSW Over Coronavirus Outbreak Concerns
One of Texas' biggest events is the latest victim of the COVID-19 scare, as Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced Friday that South by Southwest is cancelled.
KUT's Julia Reihs reports that Mayor Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt came to the decision after public health officials advised them that the concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak are too great to allow the music, film, and tech festival to continue.
At a press conference Friday afternoon, Mayor Adler said, "I want the community to know that everyone here and the hundreds of other people involved in evaluating this situation hear the concern that has been expressed by many people in the community. Everyone should know that the primary and only consideration right now is ensuring as best we can the safety and health of the people that live in our community, and that is the guiding principle for all the evaluations."
"At this point, there's no evidence to suggest that cancelling South by Southwest makes the community safer," Adler continued. "That's been the analysis over the last few weeks, but I want the community to know that that question is being reevaluated and reconsidered multiple times every day and will continue to be evaluated."
In a news release, SXSW organizers said they honor and respect the City of Austin's decision, but they are exploring the possibility of rescheduling the event. This would be the first time in 34 years that SXSW did not take place.
"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," the release reads. "We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. 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."
KVUE-TV reports that the City of Austin has also declared a local disaster, which Judge Eckhardt planned to apply county-wide via a companion declaration. The declaration will last for seven days, after which it may be renewed depending on the latest information from health officials.
Obviously, this is a huge blow to Austin's economy and Texas as a whole. SXSW is among the largest events our state hosts, with folks from across the globe attending every year. I was looking forward to going this year and checking out the film festival, so hopefully they can find a way to reschedule.
On the bright side, people who hate the annual SXSW traffic won't have to worry about it. At least, not for a while.