South By Southwest (SXSW), the popular media festival hosted in Austin, Texas, is scheduled to begin March 13 and a number of large companies have decided not to participate out of concern for the spread of the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, several outlets confirmed that Netflix is the latest company to announce that it will not appear at next week’s festival for fear of contracting or spreading COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, which has infected hundreds of Americans and killed 12 thus far.
Several outlets also reported that executives at Apple made a similar decision on Wednesday, cancelling all of the company’s events at the festival, including several premieres and panel discussions.
Netflix and Apple join Facebook, Twitter and Amazon Studios as some of the largest organizations to pull out from the festival. On Thursday, WarnerMedia, which owns CNN and HBO, said it would also cancel all of its planned events at next week’s festival.
On Monday, SXSW organizers released a statement saying the festival is scheduled to go on and that they are working with local health officials to assess risks.
“SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event,” the statement said. The organizers did not respond to HuffPost’s request for further comment.
Some local officials in Austin have argued that there is no pressing need to cancel the festival. Speaking to CNN, Austin’s interim medical director and public health authority, Mark Escott said “there’s no evidence that closing South by Southwest or other activities is going to make this community safer.” There have been 12 reported cases of coronavirus in Texas; all have been reported in southern parts of the state.
The federal government’s messaging and response to COVID-19 has frequently been confusing, flat-footed, and rooted in falsehoods. The difficulty in finding accurate information about the illness has allowed misinformation to seep into the public discourse.
On several occasions, apparently out of concern for his own political prospects heading into the 2020 election, President Donald Trump himself has contradicted health officials warning Americans about the virus. Trump has downplayed its severity, claimed a “miracle” would make it disappear, lied about when a vaccine will be available, and on Thursday ― against advice from the Centers for Disease Control ― urged people with the virus to return to work.