Citing the potential for transmission of the COVID-19 virus, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, organizers of the Virginia Festival of the Book have decided to cancel the five-day celebration of the written word, which was slated for March 18 to March 22.
“It is with heavy hearts that we write to let you know that we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Virginia Festival of the Book,” organizers wrote in an announcement on their website. “In the rapidly evolving public health situation, where much is still unknown about the coronavirus, we do not feel that it is an acceptable risk to hold the 2020 Festival as planned. Unfortunately, given the way we operate, it is also not possible for the Festival to be rescheduled.”
Festival officials said they are “currently working through many other implications of this cancellation” and will post updated information on vabook.org.
A March 8 announcement by University of Virginia officials discouraged air travel for nonessential purposes, as well as large gatherings, and book festival organizers noted that more than 350 authors and panelists had been invited to the book festival and many would be traveling from out of state.
“At its core, the festival is a community event that brings together writers and readers from across the country and around the world,” the statement reads. “As such, we are committed to prioritizing and protecting the well-being of our community, as well as visiting speakers and attendees.”
Organizers cited the Virginia Department of Health’s Monday confirmation of five cases of COVID-19 in the state. No case of the virus have been confirmed in central Virginia.
“While the festival is not inexpensive to produce, we understand that the costs of canceling are great as well. We ask that you please consider purchasing books from local booksellers by authors whose programs you were hoping to attend,” the statement reads. “Further, we will do our best to share information in the future about local events with authors who had been previously scheduled to speak at this year’s event.”