AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: Austin and Travis County leaders announced on March 6 that SXSW has been canceled.

The coronavirus is now affecting Austin's biggest festival: South by Southwest (SXSW).

Several Chinese entrepreneurs won't be attending this year's festival as they have in years past.

In a letter from Feb. 6, the founder and CEO of China Gathering LLC announced that they were suspending the China Gathering at SXSW program for this year.

According to the letter, the organization's planned conference sessions – Mayor Summit, Trade Show Exhibition, Opening Reception, Music Showcase, Visiting Team and the first-year China House – have all been canceled as a result.

"This has been a very difficult decision to make," said Vivian Forrest, China Gathering LLC CEO and founder. "I wish to express my sincere gratefulness to those who have worked diligently for this meaningful project."

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Forrest said in her letter that SXSW is an open and understanding platform that welcomes people of all ethnic groups in China. She also said China Gathering will still help Chinese compatriots still attending SXSW 2020.

China Gathering intends to come back to SXSW in March 2021.

"I sincerely believe that staying together and staying strong, we can find a way to stop the disease," wrote Forrest. "Fingers crossed for a brighter and healthier future – and we look forward to being even more involved in next year's SXSW."

KVUE reached out to SXSW organizers on Tuesday about how coronavirus may affect this year's festival. A spokesperson sent the following statement:

"The SXSW 2020 event is proceeding as planned. Safety is a top priority for SXSW, and we work closely with local, state and federal agencies year-round to plan for a safe event. 

Where travel has been impacted, especially in the case of China, we are seeing a handful of cancellations. However, we are on par with years past in regard to registrants who are unable to attend.

We are increasing our efforts to prevent the spread of disease per Austin Public Health’s recommendations. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will provide updates as necessary."

China Gathering at SXSW was officially introduced in 2017 and highlights Chinese entrepreneurs in various industries at the festival.

According to a spokesperson, Austin Public Health has the authority to cancel any festival that proves to be a threat to the public's health. 

According to its website, "Austin Public Health is closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation in coordination with the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local and regional public health and healthcare agencies. APH has developed a five-phase plan to coordinate COVID-19 response activities. We are currently in the first phase:

  • Phase 1: Persons Under Monitoring
  • Phase 2: Persons Under Investigation (Testing in Progress)
  • Phase 3: Confirmed Case (No Person-to-Person spread)
  • Phase 4: Limited Person-to-Person Spread (Close/Household Contacts)
  • Phase 5: Sustained Person-to-Person Spread in the Community"

WATCH: Austin woman stuck in China amid coronavirus outbreak

The spokesperson said the city would need to be at Phase 5 before they would consider canceling any festival.

SXSW had an economic impact of $355 million in 2019.

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