Austin officials cancel South by Southwest festival

Coronavirus

FILE – In this March 13, 2019 file photo, David Byrne takes part in the “Reasons To Be Cheerful” featured session during the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Austin city officials have canceled the South by Southwest arts and technology festival.

Mayor Steve Adler announced a local disaster as a precaution because of the threat of the novel coronavirus, effectively cancelling the annual event.

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, the county’s top elected official, said no one in the Austin area has been found to have the COVID-19 virus. However, South by Southwest was expected to have drawn an international audience into close quarters, posing a serious threat of contagion.

The announcement comes days after several high-profile companies, including Netflix, tech news outlet Mashable, video-based social media platform TikTok and U.S. chip maker Intel, pulled out of the festival.

More than 50,000 people had signed a petition seeking to get the festival cancelled.

The festival drew 73,716 attendees last year, 19,166 of whom came from outside the U.S. Combined with SXSW’s gaming expo and education conference, the 2019 event drew 417,400 attendees, organizers said. An economic impact report found it contributed $355.9 million to the local economy.

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has climbed to 14, with all but one victim in Washington state, while the number of infections swelled to over 200 scattered across at least 18 states, including at least six cases in the Houston area.

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