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Miami's Ultra Music Festival, Calle Ocho, Cancelled Due To Coronavirus Fears

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - It's official. Coronavirus fears have led to the cancellation of the three-day Ultra electronic dance music festival in Miami, and Miami's annual Calle Ocho Music Festival, according to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

The EDM Ultra festival, which has a capacity of 55,000 people per day, many of them visitors from more than 100 countries, was set to run the weekend of March 20th at Bayfront Park in Downtown Miami.

Jammed into a small area, city officials felt it was a perfect breeding venue for a highly infectious virus.

"We know the temporary financial impact that this will have on many but at the same time, we cannot put the welfare and safety of our residents, for any amount of money, at risk," said Miami Commissioner Joe Corollo.



City leaders also cancelled one of Miami's most iconic and loved events, the Calle Ocho Festival, which was set to take place Sunday, March 15. It's described as the largest Latin festival in the country.

"We are emphasizing to the public that this decision is not a cause for alarm, but we are doing it in an abundance of caution," said Mayor Suarez during a Friday morning news conference.

Suarez said the decision was made to cancel the events based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

"As COVID-19 coronavirus cases continue to rise, public gatherings can pose a risk by increasing person to person contact, often putting groups in close proximity to one another. We are obtaining this guidance from the CDC which defines mass gatherings as those with 25,000 people or more. With this in mind we have decided to take a pointed preventative action in the best interest of our resident's health and well being," said Suarez.

Suarez said they are taking 'concrete steps' to work with the organizers of Ultra and Calle Ocho, and their sponsors, to mitigate the impact of the cancellation and work with them through the year to allow them to 'continue to fulfill their mission to this community'.

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Organizers of the Ultra Music Festival told fans it's an unprecedented issued. Their statement reads: "It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that The City of Miami has issued an official directive requiring that the 22nd edition of Ultra Music Festival, originally scheduled for March 20, 21 and 22, 2020 will be postponed to March 26, 27 and 28, 2021. Due to the Florida Governor's declaration of a public health emergency and Centers of Disease Control and Prevention's Interim Guidance for COVID-19, it is impossible for the City to provide access to Bayfront Park at this time.

We completely understand how extremely frustrating this is because so many of you are looking forward to coming to Ultra, having already made travel arrangements.

This is, however, an unprecedented issue which is not being taken lightly, and we must continue to defer to the authorities for guidance. Ultimately, there is no higher priority for us than the health, safety and physical well-being of each of you, together with everyone else involved in the production of the event.

We sincerely thank you for your continued loyalty and patience during this difficult time.

All ticket purchasers will be contacted by email on Monday regarding next steps."

For the sponsors of Calle Ocho, it is also a disappointment.

"We have not been able to talk to any of our sponsors, they were not notified," said Jose Fernandez from the Kiwanis Club. "They are probably finding out now through the media. I'm sure our office is being swamped by phone calls from all over the United States. We will handle them as we see proper and figure out what's the best way going forward."

The cancellations are not an easy decision for politicians and local bureaucrats who are apparently listening to the advice of experts, such as infectious disease specialist from FIU, Dr. Aileen Marty.

"We are confronting a virus that has a tremendous potential to spread between us," she said.

Meantime, Miami-Dade County Carlos Gimenez is not cancelling any large events, including the Youth Fair. 

There are no major events being cancelled in Broward County as well.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is also keeping all events status quo, but says he understands it's a "clear risk that needs to be treated seriously."

His statement on Friday reads in part, "Our City is doing everything that health care professionals have suggested. We are reaching out to the entire community, especially to vulnerable populations like seniors, with directions and assistance in counter measures (hand washing stations, readily available hand sanitizers, urging less physical contact, cleaning of surfaces, PSA announcements, etc.). We are also organizing our hospitality industry so that it has the awareness and tools necessary to minimize risks among our visitors. Our paramedics are also trained and ready to respond to issues, and we have organized with our local hospitals. 

It is a far trickier question when it comes to what extent should municipalities be actively cancelling events and gatherings. Emergency management authorities at the County, State and Federal levels have not advised us to do this, nor directed us to."  

At this point, while we are closely monitoring the situation and in constant communication with local and federal health care and emergency management officials, our City is not prohibiting community events nor affirmatively cancelling gatherings. It would be difficult to go down that road in the absence of informed advice from professionals. Do we cancel all arena events where large groups of people gather like NBA basketball games or every concert at the Arsht or Fillmore? What about movie theaters and public schools? Do we close down hotels and restaurants, all of which receive tens of thousands of visitors daily? Our decision making must be grounded in health care and emergency management expertise. Panic should not be part of our playbook." 

The City of Hialeah, meantime, is cancelling all city-run events in March and the HistoryMiami museum has cancelled next weekend's Map Fair.

"Our Map Fair is an international event, drawing dealers, collectors and others from a number of countries and from North America. Their health and the health of those in our community with whom they would in contact is our first priority," reads a statement.

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