SXSW canceled, Emerald City Comic Con postponed because of coronavirus (and this is just the start)

Allahpundit wrote about concern that the coronavirus is likely to spread dramatically in the United States in the coming weeks. He mentioned the strategy of “social distancing” which could lead authorities in infected areas to shut down schools and other social gatherings. Already today some major public events are being canceled. This morning the organizers of Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle announced the event would be postponed until summer:

We have been closely monitoring the situation around the COVID-19 virus in Seattle, and, after many hours of conversation internally and consultation with local government officials and the tourism bureau, we have decided to move next week’s Emerald City Comic Con to Summer 2020 with date and detail announcement forthcoming. We did everything that we could to run the event as planned, but ultimately, we are following the guidance of the local public health officials indicating that conventions should now be postponed.

Our hearts go out to the entire Seattle community, everyone impacted by the COVID-19 virus, and all of you, the nearly 100,000 amazing human beings who look forward to this event each year. Our team was incredibly excited to see you at Emerald City Comic Con next week, however, fans, artists, exhibitors and the rest of the community are what make Reedpop events so special and it is our duty to make sure that your safety comes first.

Washington state, in particular Seattle, has been the area of the U.S. hardest hit by the virus. Thirteen people have died from the disease so far. Concern about spreading the virus led the University of Washington to announce today that it would cease all in-person classes for the rest of the semester:

The University of Washington said on Friday that it would cancel in-person classes and have students take courses and finals remotely while the Seattle area grapples with a growing coronavirus outbreak, in a move that other colleges around the country are preparing to follow if the virus becomes more widespread…

The University of Washington, with 50,000 students on three campuses across the Seattle region, was apparently the first large college in the United States to make the shift entirely to online classes amid virus concerns. It said the change would begin Monday and continue through the remainder of the winter quarter, which ends March 20. The university’s president, Ana Mari Cauce, said she was hopeful that normal classes would resume during the spring quarter.

But the concern isn’t limited to Seattle. Also today, the SXSW festival was canceled by the city of Austin:

The City of Austin has canceled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the City’s directions.

We are devastated to share this news with you. “The show must go on” is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.

As recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that “there’s no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.” However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin’s decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.

This could be just the start. In Iran, schools are closed and Friday prayers have been canceled. The country has even emptied prisons to prevent the disease from spreading there. And still, earlier this week, someone shot a video of dozens of bodies stacked inside and Iranian morgue:

In Italy entire towns are shut down. Schools and public parks are closed. There are no public events taking place, not even funerals. Today Italy announced a big jump in the number of coronavirus deaths.

The death toll from the new coronavirus in Italy has risen to 197 after the largest daily increase in fatalities there since the outbreak began…

The government this week ordered the closure of all schools for 10 days as it battles to contain the outbreak.

All professional sport, including Serie A football matches, will also be played behind closed doors for a month…

The BBC’s Rome correspondent Mark Lowen tweeted that a resident in the quarantined Italian town of Codogno told him the most upsetting thing for many people there is that funerals are not being permitted for coronavirus victims because of the need to limit gatherings.

So cancelling a few major events and closing schools could be just the start if the spread of the virus isn’t contained.