Alas, on Friday, the monstrous South by Southwest music, technology and film festival set to attract hundreds of thousands to Austin this month has been canceled because of concerns over COVID-19.
Chip and Joanna Gaines, of Magnolia and “Fixer Upper” fame, were scheduled to appear. Todd Bertka, who oversees the Waco Convention Center and Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau, told business leaders Friday of plans to “ride the wave” of the Gaineses’ popularity by having an official Waco, chamber of commerce and Baylor University presence at SXSW called “Destination Waco.”
Those plans apparently now are out the window.
But as of Friday, the Gaineses’ annual Spring at the Silos festival in Waco is set to go on as scheduled, starting Thursday.
“We continue to closely monitor the public health developments throughout the region, and we are working closely with local, state and federal agencies to ensure the health and safety of this community and all who come to visit,” Magnolia spokesman John Marsicano wrote in a statement Friday. “At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain the immediate health risk to the United States public is low, and the current risk of person-to-person spread throughout the state remains quite low, as well.”
When the topic turned to the new coronavirus during a meeting of site selection professionals in Chicago, most attendees “felt like this is a blip, that it will not spark major recession,” said Kris Collins, industry recruiter and senior vice president of economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. Site selection involves helping companies choose the best places to locate or expand.
Collins said her takeaway is that most believed the United States is marshaling an impressive array of resources to deal with the virus and will succeed in containing it. She said companies that rely on China have experienced delays, but delivery time is improving as production returns to normal.
Pharmacist Steve Mitchell said Circle Drug, like other retailers locally and nationally, is experiencing a severe shortage of hand sanitizer and face masks as consumers pursue protection against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that emerged last year. He said those items disappeared days ago.
The Washington Post reported that demand for hand sanitizer has created a cottage industry and price gouging. An online seller, Pure Products Direct, was asking $79.99 for two 8-ounce bottles of Purell, and another vendor was hawking Purell at $54.99 for a single bottle, according to the Post.
The Post also reported that sellers were also active on Facebook Marketplace, “where an 8-ounce bottle of Purell was priced at $40 on Tuesday.”
On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton warned in a press release that price gouging of medical supplies would not be tolerated. If reports of such gouging grow in number, Abbott would give the attorney general broader power to prosecute the cases, the press release states.
“As we work to address the coronavirus, it is essential that the public has access to health and wellness supplies that can help mitigate any potential spread,” according to the press release. “We will work to combat any attempt to exploit public health and safety for monetary gain.”
Elsewhere, Austin-based Tito’s vodka quickly launched a disclaimer when it got wind of chatter its product could serve as hand sanitizer in a pinch. It correctly pointed out Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards call for hand sanitizer to contain at least 60% alcohol, whereas Tito’s contains 40%.