How the COVID-19 virus is affecting the DC tech community - Technical.ly DC

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Mar. 10, 2020 3:08 pm

How the COVID-19 virus is affecting the DC tech community

After a few conference cancellations — including WeDC House's travel to SXSW and the national Code for America Summit — event organizers are scrambling to make alternative plans.
The front of the #WeDC House on Austin’s 6th Street.

The front of the #WeDC House on Austin's 6th Street.

(Courtesy photo)

Update: Details about the Rise of the Rest bus tour's cancellation have been added. (3/10/20, 6:27 p.m.)

Maryland’s first confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus were announced last Thursday. Since then, the virus has made its way to other areas in the DMV region, now with confirmed cases in D.C. and Virginia that sprung up over the weekend.

In light of the virus that’s spreading throughout the U.S., organizations such as Code for America and South by Southwest (SXSW) have canceled their annual tech events that were slated for this month.

Code for America was scheduled to host its annual summit at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, from March 11 through 13. A Code for America spokesperson told Technical.ly that this would have been the first time the nonprofit was hosting the annual summit in the D.C. area, as it normally takes place in San Francisco. Code for America release a statement on Friday announcing the summit’s cancellation.

“Summit is a special time of year for our community, so it was incredibly difficult to cancel but ultimately we had to prioritize the health of our attendees,” the spokesperson said.

The nonprofit is administering refunds to its expected 1,000 attendees and it is also working on the best way to virtually share the summit’s content with the community. Code for America will be updating its events page as plans are finalized.

SXSW is a conference and festival for the the interactive media, tech, film and music industries that takes place annually in Austin. Shortly after Code for America pulled the plug on its annual summit, SXSW did the same, sharing in a statement on Friday evening that “this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place.” The annual conference, which was scheduled for March 13 through 22, was canceled over concerns of the virus, though there aren’t any confirmed COVID-19 cases in Austin at this time.

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Since people from all over the nation gather in Austin for SXSW each March, the city released plans for extra precautions to prepare for a possible outbreak of the virus. Two SXSW cofounders also told the The Austin Chronicle that the financial loss of cancellation will not be covered by any insurance plan.

The WeDC House, a space for D.C.-area community leaders and technologists to congregate during SXSW, will also cancel its slated events for the annual conference. The house is hosted by the Washington, DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP) and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development (DMPED) and normally includes some programming and social events. WDCEP shared in a tweet on March 5 that the WeDC House team would “continue to closely follow” the COVID-19 outbreak.

WeDC House panelists began receiving cancellation messages on Friday, March 6, but WDCEP or DMPED have not officially released a statement about the cancellation. A WDCEP spokesperson declined to comment on ongoing plans and whether programming would be rescheduled.

Local organizations and event venues have also begun taking preventative measures.

Two New York residents who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference that was held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. on March 1 to 3 tested positive for COVID-19.

Since this announcement was made a few days ago, the convention center has canceled a few upcoming events, the Washington Business Journal reported. One of the two events includes the SAS Global Forum, which was scheduled for March 29 to April 1. The event hosted by North Carolina-based SAS Institute, a developer of analytics software, was expected to attract 6,000 attendees. SAS Institute reports that it will host attendees virtually for the forum with some of presentations and sessions. The International Monetary Fund’s annual meeting has also been cancelled.

Despite these two events being cancelled at the convention center, the Satellite 2020 conference is still happening, which kicked off on March 9 and will run through March 12 at the convention center. This annual conference focuses on the space industry and this year’s keynote speaker was Elon Musk, founder and chief engineer of SpaceX. The conference’s site says that the event has attracted over 15,000 people.

As of today, American University has canceled all in-person classes and moved them to online platforms. The university’s spring break began on March 8, and AU has decided to extend it through Tuesday, March 17. Beginning March 18, all academic instruction will continue online through Friday, April 3. In-person classes will resume on Monday, April 6.

Revolution’s ninth edition of the Rise of the Rest road trip that was scheduled for April 20 to 24 has been postponed. Steve Case, Revolution chairman and CEO, shared in a statement that the road trip was cancelled “given uncertainties about the ability of attendees to participate in the tour.”

Rise of the Rest is working to reschedule the bus tour.

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This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

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