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High-profile companies pull out of SXSW amid coronavirus outbreak

SXSW and local events proceed as scheduled despite coronavirus concerns
SXSW and local events proceed as scheduled despite coronavirus concerns

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – A rising number of high-profile companies and speakers have withdrawn from the upcoming South by Southwest music and arts festival amid mounting concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus.

Social media behemoth Facebook, tech news outlet Mashable, video-based social media platform TikTok and U.S. chip maker Intel have said they will not participate in the festival in Austin, Texas, that's scheduled to run March 13-22.

Netflix is also canceling its screenings and events during the festival, a company spokesperson confirmed to the Associated Press. The company had planned to screen the feature film “Uncorked,” with Courtney B. Vance, and four docuseries.

In addition to the screenings, Netflix is also canceling a panel with Rashida Jones and Kenya Barris about the series #blackexcellence.

Twitter announced a companywide non-essential travel ban on Sunday, including canceling plans to attend the festival. Jack Dorsey, Twitter's founder and CEO, had been slated to speak at the event.

Tim Ferriss, investor and podcast host, tweeted on Tuesday that he's also canceling his scheduled appearance as keynote speaker.

“I love SXSW, but I don’t believe the novel coronavirus can be contained, and I view an int’l event of 100K+ people as a huge risk to attendees and the entire city, given limited ICU beds, etc,” Ferriss wrote.

Global fear continues to rise about COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus. Worldwide, more than 94,000 people have been sickened and more than 3,200 have died. The number of infections in the U.S. has climbed past 120, scattered across at least 15 states.

More than 40,000 people have signed a petition seeking to get the event canceled. This isn’t the first time a negative cloud has been cast over the festival. A driver plowed into a crowd outside SXSW in 2014, killing two people and injuring 23 others.

Nonetheless, SXSW officials noted on Monday that the festival will proceed as intended, adding that Texas health officials have not asked them to call off any gatherings.

“SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event. As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, the 2020 event is proceeding with safety as a top priority,” organizers said in a statement, adding that they will provide hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes and spray for attendees.

The festival drew 73,716 attendees last year, 19,166 of whom came from outside the U.S. Combined with SXSW’s gaming expo and education conference, the 2019 event drew 417,400 attendees, organizers said. An economic impact report found it contributed $355.9 million to the local economy.