Coronavirus fears are continuing to wreak havoc on this year's racing calendar after the city of Austin, Texas—where the MotoGP season was scheduled to start in April—declared a "local state of disaster."
Just this Monday, MotoGP canceled its original season opener that was supposed to happen in Qatar over COVID-19 concerns. After that, the MotoGP race in Thailand was also postponed, leaving the early April race at the Circuit of the Americas as the series' presumptive kick-off event. There's now a good chance this year's premier motorcycle racing series will be pushed back even later as a result of the latest announcement from Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. There are reportedly at least 17 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Lone Star State as of Saturday, although none are actually in Austin.
The city is planning to suspend any events that are expected to gather more than 2,500 people unless organizers can adequately demonstrate to Austin Public Health "that mitigation plans for infectious diseases are in place. Each event will be evaluated case-by-case." As a result, one of the country's biggest music festivals, South by Southwest, has been completely canceled.
"This is a data and health-driven decision that will enable us to be prepared in any event," said Judge Eckhardt.
While COTA technically lies outside Austin's city limits, it's within the same county and will presumably face the same conditions for large-scale events.
Unlike the Swiss event ban that took down this year's Geneva Motor Show, Austin's mandate did not come with an expiry date which, to us, sounds like, "Until we say it's okay, don't invite more than 2,500 people to any one place." The MotoGP opener at COTA was scheduled for April 5 while SXSW was supposed to begin March 13.
In the event that the American race is canceled, the new MotoGP opener will be held in Argentina on April 19...unless that event ends up being canceled or postponed as well. According to Reuters, there are a total of eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Argentina as of Friday.
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