SXSW Monitoring Coronavirus Spread Ahead Of Austin Festival

Austin, Texas
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AUSTIN (1080 KRLD) - Organizers of South by Southwest (SXSW) say they are working with Austin Public Health to ensure the safety of visitors next month. South by Southwest runs from March 13-22.

SXSW officials say more than 417,000 people attended the festival last year, and about a quarter of those people were visiting from other countries.​ Organizers say they have seen some cancellations, but the number of people cancelling is "on par" with an average year.

They say they work with local, state and federal agencies "year-round to plan for a safe event."

"We are increasing our efforts to prevent the spread of germs per Austin Public Health’s recommendations, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely and will provide updates as necessary," the festival wrote in a statement.

Austin Public Health says six cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Texas, and each case is someone who had traveled internationally.

"Remember, at this stage you are much more likely to become sick with the flu than to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Since October, there have been more than 30,000 diagnosed cases of flu and 15 pediatric deaths in Texas alone," Dr. Mark Escott, Austin interim health authority, said in a statement.

Austin Public Health says the risk of the virus to the public "remains low at this time," but the CDC expects to confirm more cases across the country in the coming days. Through Wednesday, 53 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States.

"While we remain vigilant in our efforts to control the spread of disease, we may not be able to effectively prevent this virus from reaching our community," Austin Public Health says.

For South by Southwest, the Austin Convention Center Department says it is making more hand sanitizer available and will clean restrooms, escalators and door handles more frequently.