Demands to cancel SXSW grow amid coronavirus fears as organizers tout new guests

March 2, 2020, 4:19 PM UTC

As more and more major conferences are canceled due to growing coronavirus fears, the organizers of South by Southwest are moving forward with plans for the show. But that’s not sitting well with everyone.

An online petition to cancel the show had gathered more than 17,000 signatures as of Monday morning (and the number was escalating steadily). And major attendees are starting to pull out of the show, including Twitter (CEO Jack Dorsey has cancelled a talk and the company will no longer offer Twitter House, one of the bigger gathering spots of the show, which hosts both panels and big musical acts.)

Show officials, though, say they have no current plans to cancel or postpone the show. And Monday morning, they touted new scheduled guests including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Adam Schiff and Beto O’Rourke.

“SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event,” organizers said in a statement on Sunday. “As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, the 2020 event is proceeding with safety as a top priority.”

SXSW is scheduled to take place from March 13-20 in Austin. The show, which blends technology, music, movies, games, comedy and more, is one of Austin’s biggest events. Last year, it drew over 417,000 people to the city from 106 countries. The show brings in nearly $356 million to the Austin economy.

Show officials say they’re working with local and federal health officials, but see no reason to alter the show at present.

“At this time, no health departments in the state have requested the cancellation of any gatherings as the current risk of person-to-person spread in their jurisdictions remains low,” they said. “Historically, March is not a peak international travel month in Austin, but we will continue to monitor. Information and practices are changing during this rapidly evolving situation and we will continue to follow national guidelines. This being said, there are no imminent plans to postpone any current events.”

Some people planning to attend the show are still uncomfortable, though.

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