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Coronavirus Threatens South by Southwest

As the coronavirus continues to sweep the nation, the music industry is definitely feeling an impact as tour dates are being canceled, not only in Asia, but all over the world.

One event that is feeling the brunt of the disease is South by Southwest (SXSW).

South by Southwest is a tech, film and music conference that takes place annually in Austin, TX. It began in 1987 and it continues to grow in scope and size every year. The event draws thousands of attendees bringing in considerable income for the city.

This year things, however, it looks like things will be a bit different due to the coronavirus scare. Tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, Intel, Vivo, Mashable and Tik Tok have all dropped out of the conference banning all business travel.

More recently, Ozzy Osbourne, Trent Reznor and the Beastie Boys have dropped out as well. The Beastie Boys were scheduled to appear to discuss their upcoming Spike Jones documentary, ‘The Beastie Boys Story’ and Reznor was supposed to helm a keynote speech on HBO’s Watchman series. Both dropped out by default due to Warner Brothers backing out of the event.

Osbourne was appearing to plug his new biography, The Nine Lives of Ozzy Osbourne but he dropped out independently, reportedly due to his own health concerns that have nothing to do with the coronavirus. Recently, the former Black Sabbath front man announced a Parkinson’s diagnosis which forced him to cancel his own tour to get treatment.

Tensions run high in Austin as South by Southwest has announced that they are committed to keep the conference running despite health scares and cancellations. However, many residents are hoping the organization will change its mind and there is currently a petition on Change.org in favor of cancelling the conference altogether. The petition currently has about 43,000 signatures.

Mark Escott, the interim medical director and health authority for Austin had this to say, “It’s important for us to remember that at this stage we’re actively evaluating mass gatherings on a daily basis. Right now, there’s no evidence that closing South by Southwest or any other activities is going to make this community safer. We’re constantly monitoring the situation.”

The city, in the meantime is staying neutral. Mayor Steve Adler is making it publicly known that the medical professionals have the final word on whether or not it is safe to move forward with the SXSW event and that no organization will have any sway in affecting that professional decision.

This is backed up by Travis County judge Sarah Eckhardt who says, “I would ask the community- and strongly suggest- that panic will weaken us. So let’s do what our mothers taught us, let’s cover our sneezes, let’s wash our hands, and let’s be good neighbors.”

This year’s South by Southwest is slated to take place from March 13 – March 22. Although attendance may be thin, with the event being just a week away, there doesn’t seem to be any conductor stopping this train. Here’s hoping a happy and healthy time will be had by all.

Update: SXSW has officially been cancelled.

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