Without losing perspective, the city in the U.S. that may have been hit hardest thus far by the spread of the coronavirus may be one that has not yet seen a single case of the illness: Austin, Texas, where the annual South by Southwest conference, which brings dozens of thousands of people and hundreds of millions of dollars to the city every year, was cancelled on Friday.
So in the spirit of people who are going to the city anyway, here’s a link to a list of what’s happening in Austin this week, despite the cancellation of SXSW, courtesy the Austin American-Stateman:
The ten-day conference, which encompasses music, film and tech, was seen by local government as too much of a health risk, largely due to the growth and international reputation that the festival has accrued over the years: It’s simply not considered safe to bring together dozens of thousands of people from all over the world into a single geographic area where, in all likelihood, there would be many handshakes, hugs, and, well, lots more.
The city is already reeling from the cancellation: South by Southwest laid off at least 50 employees, or a third of its year-round staff, Monday as the festival faces losses in the tens of millions after the cancellation of this year’s festival.
Elements of Austin’s tourism business are also expected to be devastated by the cancellation, which SXSW had said had an operational impact of $157 million on the local economy last year.
Talking with the Austin Statesman, mayor Steve Adler said, “They told me they fully intend to come back next year…. They haven’t quite figured out the path yet. But they fully intend to come back.”
In a separate development, Austin city officials, after canceling the festival, also declared that no events with a capacity of more than 2,500 could proceed unless specifically approved by health issues, under the new disaster declaration. Without a waiver, that could affect events looming as quickly as Tuesday night’s Post Malone concert, set to take place at the city’s 16,000-capacity Erwin Center. The city has said it will allow events at mid- and large-size venues to proceed only if “mitigation plans for infectious diseases are in place.”