If smack dab in the middle of a potential historic pandemic doesn't seem to you like the best time to hold a conference that attracts hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, you're not alone. More than 18,000 have so far signed an online petition urging the organizers of SXSW, held every year in Austin, Texas, to cancel or reschedule the music, film, and interactive media conference, currently scheduled to begin March 13 and run for two weeks, over concerns about the global outbreak of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. "SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event," event organizers said in a statement Sunday outlining the precautions they're taking. But "I believe that having an event like this is irresponsible amid an outbreak," writes the petition organizer.
According to the Daily Dot, many of the signers expressed similar sentiments in their comments. "I’m a musician and a game developer. SXSW is good for my business. I’m also a new father," wrote one. "And I’m asking you to help stop the show this year." A quick Twitter search reveals similar pleas: "Organizers need to #CancelSXSW! Having people get on planes and then mix for weeks is dangerous," reads one. Another claims event organizers refused to refund his ticket when he decided not to attend based on virus concerns. Twitter announced Sunday it's pulling out of this year's conference, reports the Verge, which notes that Mobile World Congress, Facebook's F8 developer conference, and other similarly large events have been canceled or postponed in recent weeks due to the virus. (Read more coronavirus stories.)