Nearly 10,000 sign petition calling for SXSW to be canceled over mounting coronavirus worries

  • A petition calling for the cancellation of South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual media festival in Austin, Texas, over COVID-19 fear has received nearly 10,000 signatures. 
  • SXSW officials said on Friday the event, which last year brought in more than 73,000 people, would go on as scheduled, citing guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO). 
  • Facebook last week canceled its largest annual conference, which was scheduled for May.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A Change.org petition on Sunday calling for the cancellation of South by Southwest, an annual media festival scheduled to take place March 13-22, is rapidly growing in signatures amid increasing fear of the spread of COVID-19. 

“I’m concerned about the hundreds of thousands of people who will be traveling to austin Texas[sic] in march for the SXSW festival,” the Change.org petition author, Shayla Lee, wrote in the petition addressed to SXSW, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the Austin Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control. “I believe that having an event like this is irresponsible amid an outbreak.” 

The petition received nearly 10,000 signatures by Sunday evening.

On February 28, SXSW posted an update to its website that told people the event would go on as planned, citing guidance from the World Health Organization.

“The SXSW 2020 event is proceeding as planned,” a statement posted to the website on Friday said. “The World Health Organization’s recommendation is that travelers practice usual precautions, and we are increasing our efforts to help prevent the spread of disease per Austin Public Health’s recommendations. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will provide updates as necessary.

There are 11 cases of the coronavirus reported in San Antonio, Texas, according to Click2Houston. All of the cases are evacuees from locations that experienced outbreaks, including nine passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, one from a group of quarantined passengers from Wuhan, China, and one who was transferred from the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California.

According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, no cases have been reported in the state beyond the evacuees at the military facility. A total of 145 people are under quarantine at the Joint Base San Antonio Lackland, according to Click2Houston. 

The CDC reported the first coronavirus-related death in the US on Saturday: a Washington state man in his 50s who had other health issues that complicated the infection. There are also reports of “community spread,” meaning infected individuals contacted the virus without visiting an area with an outbreak, like China. 

According to data released by SXSW, more than 73,000 people attended the 2019 conference.

The coronavirus has resulted in the cancelations of conferences, concerts, and events across the globe and cancellations are only likely to grow as the disease spreads worldwide. As Business Insider previously reported, Facebook canceled F8 on Thursday, its largest annual conference, which was scheduled for May. 

“In light of the growing concerns around COVID-19, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person component of F8 this year, in order to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on,” a Facebook statement said. 

As Deadline reported, the annual Game Developers Conference, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, are just some major events canceled over worries surrounding COVID-19. Productions of movies and television shows have been suspended, and a decision over the 2020 Olympics in Japan could be made in May, according to the Deadline report.

SXSW did not immediately return Business Insider’s request for comment.

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