Posts tagged with "ABC News"

American freedom is not just celebrated on July 4: Here’s what you need to know about Juneteenth

June 19, 2020

It’s a day that celebrates and commemorates the true meaning of America—freedom, equality, and justice for all—and it will be observed with jubilation this year, as U.S. citizens nationwide continue to hit the streets to insist that Black Lives Matter.

It’s called Juneteenth and, over 150 years later, it will be observed by more Americans than ever before on Friday, June 19, ABC News reports.

American history lessons generally teach that when President Abraham Lincoln went public with the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862—three days after Union troops halted the advance of Confederate forces led by General Robert E. Lee near Sharpsburg, Maryland in the Battle of Antietam—it ended the Civil War and slavery.

But it took another 30 months and 19 days for the order to be carried out in Galveston, Texas—the last municipality in the United States where African Americans were still enslaved.

Texas was one of the seven Confederate States of America, and even when Lincoln’s executive order was enacted on January 1, 1863, “they weren’t going to recognize that anyway,” Dwayne Jones, executive director of the Galveston Historical Foundation, recently told ABC News.

“In fact, there were slave owners who moved from parts of the South, from slave states, to continue the practice of slavery in Texas because they knew they could practice there for a longer time without interruption,” Kelly E. Navies, a museum specialist and oral historian with the National Museum of African American History and Culture confirmed to the network in an interview.

Jones said that when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865, with a force of 2,000 Union troops dressed in red to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation, it was “very significant.”

During the church-oriented event, a hog was roasted as songs filled the air in between readings of the proclamation.

A combination of the month and date of Granger’s arrival in Galveston transformed the holiday into the name it’s been known as for over 100 years: Juneteenth.

“The celebration of Juneteenth gives people a chance to pause and think about the history behind what we are going through right now,” said Navies. “It gives people the opportunity to ask themselves what are the root causes to the racial conflicts we are experiencing.”

Observances of Juneteenth have generally become more secular, but the tradition remains as celebrations have expanded to cities including BuffaloKansas City,  and Chicagoand this year, will also be seen in New York State and others nationwide due to the success of the Black Lives Matter movement.

This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many traditional in-person Juneteenth gatherings have been scheduled to take place through livestreaming services like Facebook Live and Zoom, ABC News reports.

The police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 and the protests that followed have generated an increased interest in the history of Juneteenth.

“We thought for the 150th anniversary five years ago, we would have gotten more attention, but it really took, unfortunately, other events in order to bring attention to it,” said Jones.

Research contact: @ABC

Going viral: Bride and groom pose for photos in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters

June 10, 2020

In the midst of the ongoing anti-racism protests around the world, one couple’s empowering wedding photos—taken at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Philadelphia—have gone viral, The Huffington Post reports.

Bride Kerry Anne and groom Michael Gordon tied the knot in an intimate ceremony at the Logan Hotel on Saturday, June 6. Hotel staff had informed the couple days earlier that a protest was set for their wedding date, but they decided to go ahead with their plans.

As the couple was preparing to do their “first look” outside the hotel, demonstrators gathered to cheer them on, which made for a truly powerful moment. Photographer Linda McQueen captured the couple raising their fists in the heart of the downtown Philadelphia protest.

“I come running around the corner and I see Kerry standing with a circle of people around her just cheering, and she’s literally standing there looking like a Black princess. That’s all I see,” the groom told Vogue, which also is carrying the story. “These peaceful protesters, positive energy, cheering, yelling, people with their phones out taking pictures and videos.”

“And Kerry’s just standing there looking beautiful as can be,” Michael continued. “And I walked up to her and took her hand, and she was shaking. The energy and passion and moment, everything that was going on, was just blowing through her.”

Celebrating this milestone in their relationship during such a pivotal moment in history, was “empowering,” the bride—an OB-GYN who’s originally from Jamaica — told ABC News.

Not only are we feeling the movement of the people … but I’m meeting my husband, on our wedding day, as a strong Black man and a good representative of who we are as people, what our men are like, what our culture is like,” Kerry Anne Gordon said. “It was just a very, very empowering moment for us considering all of this is happening at one moment in one time.”

Initially, the couple had planned to get married in May, but had to postpone due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to their small, socially distanced ceremony this weekend, they plan to do a larger celebration with extended family and friends in 2021.

Face masks and hand sanitizer were provided to guests, who were encouraged to wear white.  To see more photos of the couple’s memorable wedding day, head over to Vogue.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Study: Initiating COVID-19 restrictions just one week earlier could have saved 36K U.S. lives

May 22, 2020

Researchers at Columbia University announced on May 20 that an estimated 36,000 lives in the United States would not have been lost to COVID-19 had social distancing and other restrictions been put in place just a single week earlier in March.

In response, ABC News reports, the White House on pointed a finger at China.

“What would have saved lives is if China had been transparent and the World Health Organization had fulfilled its mission,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. He echoed President Donald Trump’s frequent accusations that China and the W.H.O. failed to adequately inform the world about the burgeoning outbreak of COVID-19 in China’s Wuhan Province.

Disease modelers at Columbia University said in a study released Wednesday that 61.6% of deaths and 55% of infections nationwide could have been avoided if preventative measures in place on March 15 had been enacted a week earlier. That equates to about 35,927 deaths and 703,975 cases.

The study has not yet undergone the typical scientific peer review process, and all models are merely estimates, subject to change with new information.

Nevertheless, the Columbia researchers determined that if the measures had begun two weeks earlier, then 82.7% of deaths and 84% of infections — or about 53,990 deaths and 960,937 cases — could have been prevented nationwide, they found.

To try to deflect criticism, the president has frequently cited his decision in late January to block most travelers who had recently spent time in China from entering the United States—although his administration did not enact similar restrictions on travel from Europe until March 14, or recommend widespread social distancing in the United States until March 16.

“What did save American lives is the bold leadership of President Trump, including the early travel restrictions when we had no idea the true level of asymptotic spread,” Deere said. He pointed to the private sector’s work on delivering “critical supplies to states in need and ramp up testing across the country that has placed us on a responsible path to reopen our country.”

While the federal government was slow to recommend social distancing measures, it was governors and local officials who called the shots and who, in many cases, acted more quickly, according to ABC News.

A White House official said the “success” of responding to COVID-19 “has been built on the federal-state partnership, not a federal government coming in and telling governors and mayors what decisions to make for their communities when a bureaucrat in Washington has [no] idea what is best for them.”

While Trump has repeatedly said he prefers governors take the lead on testing and rolling back restrictions, he has also frequently attacked Democratic state leaders—often in political battleground states key to his reelection later this year—for moving too slowly.

Research contact @abcnews

Twitter will allow employees to work from home ‘forever’

May 14, 2020

For those of its workers who are flourishing while conducting meetings on Zoom with a child on their laps and a cat next to the keyboard, social media giant Twitter announced on May 12 that it plans to let anyone who wishes to work from home to do so for the foreseeable future—even after its offices reopen in a post-pandemic world, ABC News reports.

“Twitter was one of the first companies to go to a WFH [work from home] model in the face of COVID-19, but we don’t anticipate being one of the first to return to offices,” the company said in a statement.

The past few months of having staff almost entirely remote “have proven we can make it work,” the statement continued. “So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen. If not, our offices will be their warm and welcoming selves, with some additional precautions, when we feel it’s safe to return.”

Twitter said its offices will not likely open before September, and when reopening does occur, it will be a gradual and cautious process, ABC notes. No in-person company events for the rest of 2020 are scheduled.

“We’re proud of the early action we took to protect the health of our employees and our communities,” Twitter said. “That will remain our top priority as we work through the unknowns of the coming months.”

Research contact: @ABC

Trump signs executive order to keep meat processing plants open

April 30, 2020

Without stringent safety and sanitation measures and testing in place, the United Foods and Commercial Workers International Union worries that its 1.3 million members nationwide will be “dead meat,” following President Donald Trump’s executive order this week.

The president signed an executive order on April 28, compelling the nation’s meat packing plants—many of which have closed because of COVID-19 outbreaks among workers—to stay open as part of “critical infrastructure” in the United States, administration officials told ABC News.

The five-page order is two-pronged, the network news outlet said—quoting a senior administration official who commented, “from a [Defense Production Act] standpoint, it mandates that critical food supply operations stay open” and second, “from a liability standpoint, we will issue guidance coming from (the Department of Labor) that will provide additional liability protections.”

ABC said it was unclear what the liability protections might involve.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday he would be signing the order, but didn’t provide many details.

“We’re going to sign an executive order today, I believe. And that will solve any liability problems where they have certain liability problems,” the president said. “And we’ll be in very good shape. We’re working with Tyson, which is one of the big companies in the world. And we always work with the farmers. There’s plenty of supply, as you know. There’s plenty of supply. It’s distribution. And we will probably have that today solved. It was a very unique circumstance, because of liability.”

Trump was referring to Tyson Food, which suspended operations of its largest pork production plant last week. Smithfield Foods, Inc. also suspended operations at some of their plants.

Government officials in the Midwest had been urging the administration to use the Defense Production Act to deem the plants critical.

Senator Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican who rarely spurs the administration to take action, wrote to the president Monday to push him to invoke the Defense Production Act to address the “on-farm and on-ranch livestock emergency” in order to “help keep food production plants open safely.”

However, according to a press release Tuesday from the United Foods and Commercial Workers International Union, at least 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have been confirmed dead and “at least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been directly impacted by the virus.”

The union wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence last week urging the White House coronavirus task force to prioritize the safety of grocery workers and those workers in meat processing plants.

“At the same time, we have heard both federal and state elected leaders refer to these workers as essential, yet they are not being provided the essential protections they need to do their jobs safely. For the sake of these essential workers’ lives, and the safety of our food supply, this must change immediately, and we must prioritize the safety and protection of all grocery workers and workers in meatpacking and food processing plants,” the letter said.

An administration official told ABC News that they were considering providing some guidance for those workers who are most at risk from severe complications from COVID-19.

“For example, for a processing plant worker that is over 65, or one that has pre-existing health conditions that put them at a greater risk, we would work with the Department of Labor to issue guidance strongly suggesting they stay at home,” the official said.

Research contact: @ABC

Shake Shack to return $10 million government loan

April 21, 2020

Executives at the popular burger chain Shake Shack announced on April 20 that they planned to return the $10 million government stimulus loan the company had received through the Paycheck Protection Program, ABC News reported.

“The ‘PPP’ came with no user manual and it was extremely confusing,” Danny Meyer, the CEO of parent company Union Square Hospitality Group, and Randy Garutti, the CEO of Shake Shack, said in a joint statement, adding that, “While the program was touted as relief for small businesses, we also learned it stipulated that any restaurant business —including restaurant chains—with no more than 500 employees per location would be eligible. “

That meant that The Shake Shack, which is not a truly small business, would qualify. The chain employs a total of about 8,000 workers at its 280 fast casual restaurants in the United States and 95 restaurants abroad, but only about 45 workers at each of its locations.

“We cheered that news,” the CEOs said, “as it signaled that Congress had gotten the message that as both as an employer, and for the indispensable role we play in communities, restaurants needed to survive. There was no fine print, anywhere, that suggested: “Apply now, or we will run out of money by the time you finally get in line.”

Shake Shack and Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG) thought “the best chance of keeping our teams working, off the unemployment line, and hiring back our furloughed and laid off employees, would be to apply now and hope things would be clarified in time,” they explained.

After all, Shake Shack’s operating losses have totaled over $1.5 million per week since the lockdown began—and USHG has been forced to lay off more than 2,000 employees.

However, Meyer and Garutti said, “We now know that the first phase of the PPP was underfunded, and many who need it most, haven’t gotten any assistance.”

Therefore, Shake Shack management has made the decision to return the check so that the money can be made available to companies that need it even more.

What’s more, Meyer and Garutti did not stop with sending back the stimulus check. “We urge Congress,” they said in their release, “to ensure that all restaurants, no matter their size, have equal ability to get back on their feet and hire back their teams. We are an industry of 660,000 restaurants with nearly 16 million employees. While it is heartening to see that an additional $310 billion in PPP funding is about to be approved, in order to work for restaurants, this time we need to do it better.”

They also have outlined three steps that the government should take to help keep restaurants on their feet:

  • Fund it adequately. It’s inexcusable to leave restaurants out because no one told them to get in line by the time the funding dried up. That unfairly pits restaurants against restaurants. This industry rises and falls together. And if there is a concern that once again the government will have not allocated adequate funding, then send business to the front of the PPP line which has more limited access to outside funding.
  • Assign to each applying restaurant a local bank that will be responsible for executing the loan assuming the restaurant has satisfied eligibility requirements. Too many restaurants have been left out of the program simply because they lacked a pre-existing banking or loan relationship.
  • Eliminate the arbitrary June forgiveness date for PPP loans. This virus has moved in waves with a different timeline in different parts of our country. Instead, make all PPP loans forgivable if an adequate number of employees are rehired by a minimum six months following the date that a restaurant’s state (or city) has permitted a full reopening to the public.

In summary, the Shake Shack’s management said, “If this health crisis and the associated economic shock has taught us anything, it is that we are all in this together. Restaurants and their employees are craving the moment when we can safely be back in business and bring our guests back to the table. With adequate funding and some necessary tweaks, the PPP program can provide the economic spark the entire industry needs to get back in business.”

Research contact: @ABC

CNN poll: Majority of Americans say Trump and task force are failing at fighting COVID-19

April 10, 2020

As President Donald Trump continues to urge reporters to congratulate him on the “great job” he is doing in responding to coronavirus—rather than to question him on the government’s failures—a majority of Americans now disapprove of his handling of the crisis, according to a new CNN poll.

The poll found that 52% disapprove of the way Trump is handling the crisis, while 45% approve. This marks an uptick from the same poll in early March, when  41% approved and 48% disapproved, Business Insider reports..

Meanwhile, a majority of Americans (55%) also now say that the federal government has done a poor job in preventing the spread of the virus —and 55% also feel that Trump could be doing more to fight the pandemic. 

Trump ignored multiple warnings of a potential pandemic, and downplayed the threat of the virus for weeks–even months, if the ABC News reports on intelligence on the pandemic breaking as far back as November 2019 are to be considered.

Just four weeks ago, on March 9, Trump tweeted, “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant.”

The president has repeatedly said that he’s done a great job managing the crisis, even as the death toll continues to rise.

The federal government has struggled to recover from early stumbles, particularly in terms of testing for the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out faulty test kits in February, which put the United States way behind the curve, Business Insider says. Although testing capacity has increased, America still does not have a robust system to test people for the virus and gain a full picture of the spread.

In an effort to shift responsibility, the president has shifted decision-making on the pandemic to the states and their governors.

“States are supposed to be doing testing. Hospitals are supposed to be doing testing,” Trump said on Monday. “We’re the federal government. We’re not supposed to be standing on street corners doing testing. They go to doctors. They go to hospitals.”

Research contact: @businessinsider

Intelligence warned of COVID-19 crisis as early as November; White House did not respond

April 9, 2020

As far back as late November, U.S. intelligence officials were warning that a contagion was sweeping through China’s Wuhan region—changing the patterns of life and business, and posing a major threat to the population—according to four sources briefed on the secret report, ABC News revealed on April 8.

Concerns about what is now known to be the novel coronavirus pandemic were detailed in a November intelligence report by the military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), according to two officials familiar with the document’s contents.

The report was the result of analysis of wire and computer intercepts, coupled with satellite images, ABC News reports. It raised alarms because an out-of-control disease would pose a serious threat to U.S. forces in Asia—troops that depend on the NCMI’s work.

What’s more important, the network news outlet notes, it paints a picture of an American government that could have ramped up mitigation and containment efforts far earlier to prepare for a crisis poised to come home.

“Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,” one of the sources said of the NCMI’s report. “It was then briefed multiple times to” the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and the White House.

From that warning in November, the sources described repeated briefings through December for policy-makers and decision-makers across the federal government as well as the National Security Council at the White House.

All of that culminated with a detailed explanation of the problem that appeared in the President’s Daily Brief of intelligence matters in early January, the sources told ABC News . For something to have appeared in the PDB, it would have had to go through weeks of vetting and analysis, according to people who have worked on presidential briefings in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

“The timeline of the intel side of this may be further back than we’re discussing,” the source said of preliminary reports from Wuhan. “But this was definitely being briefed beginning at the end of November as something the military needed to take a posture on.”

The NCMI report was made available widely to people authorized to access intelligence community alerts. Following the report’s release, other intelligence community bulletins began circulating through confidential channels across the government around Thanksgiving, the sources said. Those analyses said China’s leadership knew the epidemic was out of control even as it kept such crucial information from foreign governments and public health agencies.

“It would be a significant alarm that would have been set off by this,” former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Mick Mulroy, now an ABC News contributor, said of the NCMI report. “And it would have been something that would be followed up by literally every intelligence-collection agency.”

Mulroy, who previously served as a senior official at the CIA, said NCMI does serious work that senior government leaders do not ignore.

“Medical intelligence takes into account all source information — imagery intelligence, human intelligence, signals intelligence,” Mulroy said. “Then there’s analysis by people who know those specific areas. So for something like this to have come out, it has been reviewed by experts in the field. They’re taking together what those pieces of information mean and then looking at the potential for an international health crisis.”

NCMI is a component of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency. Together, the agencies’ core responsibilities are to ensure U.S. military forces have the information they need to carry out their missions—both offensively and defensively. It is a critical priority for the Pentagon to keep American service members healthy on deployments.

However, as late as the third week in January, the Trump Administration believed no significant action was necessary. On January 22, for instance, Trump made his first comments about the virus when asked in a CNBC interview, “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?” The president responded, “No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

Passengers wear facemasks as they form a queue at the Wuhan Wuchang Railway Station in Wuhan, early April 8, 2020, as they prepare to leave the city in China’s central Hubei province.Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

On February 19, ABC News notes, Trump had only positive reviews for the way in which China’s leaders had handled the coronavirus.

“I’m confident that they’re trying very hard,” Trump told an interviewer from Fox 10 in Phoenix. “They’re working it—they built, they built a hospital in seven days, and now they’re building another one. I think it’s going to work out fine.”

It was not until March 13 when Trump declared a national emergency and mobilized the vast resources of the federal government to help public-health agencies deal with the crisis that was poised to crash on to the homeland.

If it were true that America’s spy agencies were caught that off guard, one intelligence official told ABC News, “that would be a massive intel failure on the order of 9/11. But it wasn’t. They had the intelligence.”

ABC News contributor John Cohen, who used to oversee intelligence operations at the Department of Homeland Security, said even the best information would be of no use if officials do not act on it.

“When responding to a public health crisis or any other serious security threat, it is critical that our leaders react quickly and take steps to address the threat identified in the intelligence reporting,” said Cohen, the former acting undersecretary of DHS. “It’s not surprising to me that the intelligence community detected the outbreak; what is surprising and disappointing is that the White House ignored the clear warning signs, failed to follow established pandemic response protocols and were slow to put in place a government-wide effort to respond to this crisis.”

Research contact: @abcnewsC

Dr. Fauci: ‘I don’t understand why’ Trump resists nationwide stay-at-home order

April 7, 2020

President Donald Trump is facing new pressure from the nation’s top infectious disease expert to call for a nationwide stay-at home order that would flatten the coronavirus curve and help save the lives of more Americans.

In his strongest comments yet, ABC News reports, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become a prominent face in the fight against the pandemic, is now saying that he “doesn’t understand” why every state isn’t under a stay-at-home order—a move that Trump continues to resist, arguing those decisions should be left to the states.

“I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” Fauci told CNN at a town hall on April 2, when asked about some states having not issued stay-at-home orders. “The tension between federally-mandated versus states rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into, but if you look at what’s going on in this country I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that — we really should be.”

Trump has stuck by his guns, despite White House models revealing that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans will die from COVID-19—and that’s assuming that the entire country implements strict social distancing measures, ABC News says..

Despite the advice of his top expert, the president has professed, “It’s awfully tough to say ‘close it down'” to states with fewer infections, adding that those states should be given “a little bit of flexibility.”

Experts disagree. John Cohen, former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security and an ABC News contributor, echoed a warning from health officials: “If you have one state that is very strict about reducing social contact, and you have a neighboring state that isn’t, then infected people can go back and forth and spread the virus.”

But a handful of states remain without any form of statewide closures of “nonessential” businesses or stay-at-home orders in place: Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. All five are overseen by Republican governors.

“If the president came out with a clear message that was consistent with what his own public health officials are saying, then you would see these governors respond in a different way,” said Cohen, who has dealt in crisis management at a federal level.

What’s more, Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, said at the April 2 briefing that early data is revealing that social distancing is still not being followed stringently—at least in some areas.

“We’re watching very carefully because we can see that you can go from this to this very quickly,” Birx said, pointing a steep slope on a graph. “This should not be happening any longer in new places, if people are doing the social distancing, washing their hands, not getting together in large groups.”

“When we said that, now over 16 days ago, that was serious,” she said of the coronavirus guidelines. “And you can see the number of individuals who have been infected since then. The people we’re seeing infected today and in hospitals today were infected after the guidelines went out.”

This is why Cohen says that it’s “so important, particularly at this stage, when we’re seeing the number of cases increase dramatically on a daily basis, that every state take consistent action.”

“This is a national crisis, and it requires a cohesive national plan,” Cohen added, “and up to this point, the response to this crisis has been one that’s been led by state and local officials.”

Research contact: @abcnews

Going south? Facebook, Netflix, and Twitter beg off South by Southwest over coronavirus fears

March 9, 2020

They may be “social media,” but right now, hobnobbing with hordes of people is not their mission: Facebook, Netflix, TikTok, and Twitter have joined the growing list of companies—including Warner Music—that are dropping out of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, ABC News reports.

Apple is also, by many accounts, pulling out—but has not confirmed the rumors.

The tech, film, and music festival is slated to take place March 13 to 22 in Austin, Texas—and organizers said at a news conference on March 4 that the event is still scheduled to take place, as planned; and that canceling it wouldn’t make the community safer.

“Right now, there is no evidence that closing South by Southwest or other activities is going to make this community safer. We are constantly monitoring that situation,” Dr. Mark Escott, the interim medical director for Austin Public Health, told reporters. “One of the concerns is that if we shut down or make the recommendation to shut down South by Southwest, people will still continue to come here … but without that organizational structure that South by Southwest provides.”

Festival organizers are increasing the availability of hand-washing and sanitizing stations— as well as screening employees’ and volunteers’ temperatures—to help allay anxieties over COVID-19, Escott added.

Also on Wednesday, health officials in Texas announced the state’s first confirmed case of coronavirus in Fort Bend County, outside of Houston.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was scheduled to be one of the event’s speakers, but his name no longer appears on the website, ABC News noted. “Twitter is implementing a mandatory global business travel restriction for our employees, effective immediately. This unfortunately includes SXSW,” a Twitter spokesperson told the nework news outlet.

A Facebook spokesperson similarly said, “Due to concerns related to coronavirus, our company and employees will not be participating in SXSW this year.”

Netflix and TikTok also both confirmed to ABC News on Thursday, March 5, that they would not be participating. Apple did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment, although Reuters reported that the company had opted not to attend.

Organizers and the city of Austin have faced widespread calls to call off the festival this year. A Change.org petition calling for it to be canceled had garnered nearly 50,000 signatures as of Thursday.

Calling off the festival would be a major blow to the local economy. The gathering injects up to $350 million into Austin’s economy, according to a 2018 analysis by Greyhill Advisors, funded by South by Southwest.

Research contact: @ABC

Editor’s note: Under pressure to keep a lid on COVID-19, Austin has canceled SXSW, as of Friday night, March 6.