Coronavirus risk causes Twitter to pull out of SXSW

(Source: CDC)

With the Coronavirus spreading – CNN claims two dozen reported cases, this weekend, brands and event organizers are being forced to rethink their participation in upcoming events. One major event affected is South By Southwest which takes place in Austin next week beginning March 13. Twitter has now announced it will not attend the event which brings hundreds of thousands of people from across the world to Austin.

In the US, there are over 80 confirmed cases. Two are confirmed dead out of Washington state.

A new petition, started by Shayla Lee three days ago, calls for the festival to be canceled due to the outbreak. At this writing the petition has over 15,000 signatures.

The pullout, ordered by CEO Jack Dorsey, follows a blog post which laid out Twitter’s plan to stop all non-essential business travel during the outbreak. You can read the statement below:

We recently shared information about the work we’re doing to surface the right information, to promote constructive engagement, and to highlight credible information around the spread of #coronavirus COVID-19. We will continue to update the public on these efforts this week.

We also have the responsibility of ensuring that the health and safety of our employees and partners is not compromised. We have continued to monitor the situation closely and are adjusting our internal policies to respond to this rapidly-evolving situation. On February 29, we informed our people and started notifying partners that we are suspending all non-critical business travel and events.  

This policy is effective immediately and will continue until the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control deem it appropriate to step back from pandemic precautionary measures or when a vaccine becomes available. 

Our goal is to reduce the risk that anyone at Twitter might contract or inadvertently spread the virus. It is important that we take these proactive steps to protect ourselves and others and minimize the spread of COVID-19. 

There are enormous transnational efforts underway to tackle this virus. As a global company with a global workforce, we want to do what we can to help the success of these multi-stakeholder containment efforts. Temporarily suspending travel is an immediate and important step.

We want to thank our people, partners and customers for their patience and understanding.

According to KXAN in Austin, locals have also expressed concerns about possible transmission of the disease, which is rapidly spreading. Globally, over 89,000 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. About 3,000 of those people died.

Austin Public Health says there are “no imminent plans to postpone any current events,” including SXSW. If SXSW were to cancel, the economic impact would be immense. Last year’s conference had an estimated economic impact of $355.9 million.

Some groups have also canceled, including China Gathering, who announced in an open letter on their website that the last few months have been difficult deciding to “suspend the program.”

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Twitter joins other companies banning non-essential travel

Twitter is not the only company putting a squash on non-essential business travel. According to the Verge, Google is now preventing employees from traveling to Italy, Iran, Japan, and South Korea because of outbreaks of the novel coronavirusBusiness Insider reported.

Amazon is also asking employees to defer all nonessential travel, a spokesperson confirmed to The Verge, which includes domestic travel within the US.

Amazon, one of the leading purchasers of corporate air travel, senior vice president Dave Clark wrote in an email that employees should not schedule meetings that call for travel until at least the end of April, The New York Times reported. The company is one of the leading buyers of corporate air travel, and it booked $220 million in flights in 2017.

Both companies had already halted employee travel to China, and Google temporarily closed down its offices in China at the end of January.

Amazon is also canceling all on-site interviews for job candidates, Gizmodo reported. Interviews will be held over video chat.

Ad Age and The Verge contributed to this piece.