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'No reason to cancel our events' Rodeo Austin says as SXSW 2020 is halted

Austin city leaders announced Friday that SXSW is canceled, but Rodeo Austin says it was advised their events can continue for now.

AUSTIN, Texas — Although City of Austin and Travis County leaders announced Friday that they would be canceling the 2020 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, Rodeo Austin says it was advised their events can continue as planned.

In a statement released Friday, Rodeo Austin said:

"Currently, the Rodeo Austin management team is working closely with City and County officials to monitor the COVID-19 situation. Rodeo Austin takes public health and safety extremely seriously and will continue to be guided by City and County officials to determine if modifications to our events are necessary. At this time, Rodeo Austin has been advised by County officials there is no immediate reason to cancel our events."

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On Thursday, rodeo leaders told KVUE how they were gearing up amid the growing coronavirus concerns. Those efforts include increasing hand-washing and sanitizing stations, in addition to having cleaners working throughout the day and overnight.

When making the SXSW announcement Friday, Austin health expert Dr. Mark Escott said:

“Over the past several days, a group of experts has been reviewing the spring festival season and keeping track of an evolving situation across the U.S. and our State in relation to COVID-19. While there is no clear guidance on what local jurisdictions should do under these circumstances, our local expert advisory panel took a look at the risk factors and identified a number of concerns.”

The key factors considered included:

  • The likelihood for extended close personal contact
  • Crowd density
  • A significant number of travelers from areas currently experiencing person-to-person spread of COVID-19 domestically and internationally
  • A high number of guests coming from unknown locations
  • The lack of a vaccine and limited treatment options to manage cases.

According to the City, events with 2,500 or more people are prohibited unless organizers are able to assure Austin Public Health that mitigation plans for infection diseases are in place. Each event will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Rodeo Austin events are set for March 14 through 28. Meanwhile, SXSW was set to last from March 13 through 22.

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