Austin Cancels SXSW in Light of COVID-19 Spread

Mayor declares state of emergency in Austin, cancels annual festival scheduled to run March 13-22

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Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced Friday he's declared a declaration of disaster in the city and has canceled the upcoming SXSW music festival.

"Based on the recommendation of our public health officer and director of public health, and after consultation with the city manager, I've gone ahead and declared a local disaster in the city and associated with that, I've issued an order that effectively cancels SXSW for this year," Adler said Friday.

SXSW organizers said they are working with the "ramifications of this unprecedented situation" but "honor and respect the city of Austin's decision to cancel this year's event.

"We are devastated to share this news with you," SXSW officials wrote on Twitter. "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."

Health officials said Friday there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Austin, or Travis County.

"This is an effort to carefully consider and weigh the risk of introducing a spread of COVID-19," said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority in Austin.

County health officials said as recently as Wednesday that "there's no evidence that closing SXSW, or any other gatherings, will make the community safer," a statement echoed by Escott Friday.

"There's a lack of conclusive scientific evidence that canceling mass gatherings will change the overall impact in spread of disease over time. However there is evidence that it may accelerate the spread and make that happen sooner. This lack of conclusive evidence is clear from the CDC, and the DSHS response ... is to defer to local government," Escott said.

As of this writing, the only confirmed cases of COVID-19 are in the Houston area where six people infected with the virus are recovering after being exposed while traveling as a group in Egypt last month.

SXSW was scheduled to run March 13-22.

How to Avoid COVID-19 Infection:

The best way to prevent infection is to take precautions to avoid exposure to this virus, which are similar to the precautions you take to avoid the flu. CDC always recommends these everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

*Information shared from the Office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

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