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How Coronavirus Took Down SXSW

For Austin Mayor Steven Adler, the decision to call off the Texas capital’s signature music and film festival due to COVID-19 fears wasn’t an easy one.
Businesses along Sixth Street in Austin benefit from the swell of foot traffic during SXSW.
Businesses along Sixth Street in Austin benefit from the swell of foot traffic during SXSW.Michael Buckner/Getty Images

On Friday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced the cancellation of South by Southwest, a two-week film and music festival that brings thousands of visitors to the city — and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

As global alarm over the coronavirus outbreak grew, Adler’s decision went from “largely unthinkable to increasingly inescapable,” as Texas Monthly wrote. Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt declared a “local state of disaster” on Friday, giving public health officials the authority to review mass public events and decide whether they should proceed. Under these powers, officials announced that SXSW wouldn’t go forward. Residents of Austin were unnerved by the news, since the festival pumps millions into local venues, restaurants, and service industry workers’ pockets.