Update: Officials announced a ban on events with more than 250 people in attendance. Read more here.
Original story: Health officials are urging venues to cancel or reschedule events with more than 250 attendees in light of COVID-19 concerns.
Austin Public Health has capped large-scale events at 2,500, but issued a statement late Friday asking organizers to reconsider these smaller events, citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If the request becomes mandatory, it would effectively scrap plans made by music venues and club owners who had hoped to recoup some losses as a result of South by Southwest's cancellation. A handful of clubs and promoters – including Barracuda, Margin Walker Presents, Hotel Vegas and Mohawk – have announced they will not continue events. ACL Live at the Moody Theater has also canceled a slate of shows through April.
As of Saturday afternoon, concerts at other venues – including Stubb's, Cheer Up Charlie's and Empire Control Room and Garage – were continuing as planned.
Austin-Travis County health officials canceled SXSW last week because of concerns the festival, which brings in hundreds of thousands of domestic and international attendees, would exacerbate the spread of the new coronavirus.
In that same declaration, officials also limited public gatherings to 2,500 attendees and established a review process for events going forward. Organizers and venue-owners in the Red River Cultural District forged ahead, noting they would closely follow public health guidelines for large events.
"The health and safety of Austin-Travis County residents and visitors is our highest priority and today we're adopting a regional strategy to help minimize the spread of this disease," APH's interim medical director, Dr. Mark Escott, said Friday. "We are looking for opportunities to mitigate risk while keeping businesses operating. If we can find the right balance, we can maintain our community."
It’s unclear whether the constant drip of cancellations will eventually lead the holdouts to also call off events.
Public health officials are urging people who believe they are ill to stay home and are asking people to avoid large gatherings, unless they can maintain a distance of 6 feet from others.
Friday afternoon, both Gov. Greg Abbott and President Donald Trump issued disaster declarations.
In Texas, there are more than 60 confirmed cases so far. There are three presumptive cases in Travis County; local health officials are awaiting results of tests from the CDC. Globally, the disease caused by the new coronavirus has infected more than 155,000 people as of Saturday afternoon, killing close to 5,800.