ECCC has been postponed, ACE Comic Con has instituted a ‘no touch’ policy, and now SXSW has joined the explosion of COVID-19 related announcements by cancelling their event.
You guys must be wondering if I’ll ever write about anything other than COVID-19 convention updates ever again. Honestly? At this point I’m not so sure. This is my life now, I guess. With the ECCC update, the ACE Comic Con update, and now SXSW throwing into the mix, I’m struggling to keep up. But once again, here I am with more news! So let’s get to it.
The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.
We are devastated to share this news with you. “The show must go on” is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.
As recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.
We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU. For our registrants, clients, and participants we will be in touch as soon as possible and will publish an FAQ.
We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.
We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.
Just like the ECCC cancellation, this isn’t exactly a surprise. In fact, when I wrote the article about that con this morning, I predicted this would be the next to fall. And also just like ECCC, the people putting on the event were very committed to keeping this event going, but things have clearly escalated in the past few days to an extreme degree. They obviously didn’t make this decision lightly.
I want to applaud SXSW for taking this step, even if they were extremely reluctant to do so for so very long. There are currently 17 confirmed cases in Texas, most of which are attributed to Wuhan evacuees and people quarantined from the Diamond Princess cruise. These positive cases were all held at Lackland near San Antonio.
However, at least five of these are outside of that statistic with four in Harris County and one in Fort Bend, indicating that it’s in the community and not just confined to the evacuees. This changes the situation fairly dramatically, so their change in stance is to be expected.
None of these cases were in Austin, but I want to stress again (for the third time today) that that has gotten to the point where the location of the event hardly matters. These events attract people from around the world. SXSW in particular can bring in hundreds of thousands of people to the multi industry event, so if Austin didn’t have it before, it would have been extremely high risk for them to have cases after the event went forward.
There’s also the issue that the United States is severely under testing for COVID-19, so the true spread of it may not be fully understood. All of the stats I’m providing are confirmed cases only, but with under 2,000 people tested, it’s hard to gauge just how accurate those numbers are.
This decision is upsetting for people who were looking forward to attend, yes, but this was the right call. All conventions and events who make this decision should be thanked for doing so, and then encouraged to release information on potential refunds and rescheduling as soon as they can.
How this event will handle issues like refunds remains to be seen, but their statement promises a more comprehensive FAQ coming up shortly. Hopefully that’ll provide more details to attendees who may need to start the refund process. They may even have the option of doing some of the scheduled events virtually, but we just don’t know yet. I very much look forward to their FAQ because there’s a lot of questions about what’s going to happen now.
We’ll see if this starts a chain reaction of event cancellations at this point. All-Con up in Dallas, while a whole lot smaller, is still planning on happening at this time. Dallas also doesn’t have any confirmed cases, and since All-Con doesn’t have as large of a reach as SXSW, it could very well be spared from cancellation.
The following weekend is ACE Comic Con, which is also still holding strong with only a few extra precautions in place to keep the guests safe, as we discussed in our last update. Other conventions taking place that weekend in various hot spots around the world such as the Paris Livre Book Fair, Game Developers Conference (San Francisco), and Anime Japan (Tokyo) have all been cancelled or postponed.
We are currently tracking 17 conventions and 4 theme parks at our Coronavirus Convention and Theme Park Impacts masterpost, so check there frequently for updates. If you know of a convention that isn’t on our list that could be impacted, please let us know. As much as we wish we were oracles on top of every convention in the world, that is sadly not the case, so please drop us a line!
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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