During a press conference Friday the City of Austin declared a “local disaster” and, on order of Austin Public Health, canceled SXSW and SXSW EDU 2020.
City of Austin declares "local disaster," cancels SXSW in response to Coronavirus fears. https://t.co/g8Q8SdwnHy
— Austin Chronicle (@AustinChronicle) March 6, 2020
Minutes later SXSW released a statement via their Twitter account confirming that they’ll “faithfully follow the city’s directions.”
— SXSW (@sxsw) March 6, 2020
The full statement reads:
City of Austin Cancels SXSW March Events
The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.
We are devastated to share this news with you. “The show must 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.
As recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.
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. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ.
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.
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.
SXSW organizers pledged to provide a “virtual SXSW experience online” as soon as possible so would-be attendees can still hear from the speakers they’d been looking forward to. Obviously, there’s no way to virtually provide the networking and deal-making that would normally take place and doesn’t put customers in the seats of restaurants and other venues.
Their statement also highlighted how hard the cancellation will hit not only the “creatives” who use SXSW for networking, but the small businesses and Austin’s economy as a whole.
If this brand of alarmism is the new normal, everyone should be prepared to live their lives in a bubble and never come in contact with another human being.