The annual tech, film and music conference in Austin, South By Southwest has officially been canceled because of the coronavirus.
The decision came just two days after Austin public health officials said the event could proceed as planned despite a string of high-profile dropouts and widespread calls to cancel.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler told reporters Friday afternoon,
“I’ve gone ahead and declared a local disaster in the city, and, associated with that, have issued an order that effectively cancels South by Southwest this year.”
Scheduled to take place from March 13 to March 22, the event was cancelled for first time in 34 years. SXSW said in a statement,
“We are devastated to share this news with you. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”
SXSW is now exploring the possibility of rescheduling. Twitter was the first big company to pull out of the event, citing its new policy restricting all business travel because of the virus.
Facebook, Intel, Vevo and Mashable soon followed suit.
Popular video app TikTok also backed out, saying it would explore other ways to bring its planned SXSW content to audiences.
“While we think the risk is relatively low, we are erring on the side of caution.”
San Francisco-based marketing consultant Kate Talbot, who has attended SXSW every year since 2015 as a way to try to get new business. Talbot told CNN Business,
“SXSW is really beneficial to my busines. I’m doing what the CDC is telling us to do and being smart about it.
I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t understand the difference between being in San Francisco and Austin. There’s a risk anywhere you go.”
Mark Escott, the interim medical director and health authority for Austin Public Health, said canceling the event was a necessary precaution to mitigate the further spread of the virus.
“This is not unlike a hurricane looming in the gulf. Now is the time to think about what are we going to do as a community and as a government when that storm comes.”