This year's Tucson Festival of Books is off after dozens of authors canceled over the past few days, amid concerns over coronavirus.
The event draws more than 100,000 people to the University of Arizona campus.
Several of the more than 100 authors who canceled, cited COVID-19 virus concerns, though no cases have been confirmed in Pima County. Five cases have been confirmed in Arizona, as of Saturday.
The festival was scheduled for March 14-15.
"This has deeply affected our author panel schedule and we anticipate more changes and cancellations will be forthcoming," organizers said in a statement. "This leaves us with little or no way to plan for author panels or to communicate effectively with the public about those changes."
During the weekend, the festival's board members initially decided to make the event a "touch-free" event, meaning that authors wouldn't be shaking hands or hugging attendees.
"As a result, we had to cancel the interactive, hands-on activities and tours in Science City, and modify many activities in the children’s area, again diminishing the festival experience," the statement says. Science City has more than 100 hands-on activities hosted by the University of Arizona’s College of Science and BIO5 Institute.
”As a festival, we believe people need to do what they feel is best for their health concerns,” executive director Melanie Morgan said in an interview on Tuesday. At that point, only three authors had canceled due to worries surrounding coronavirus.
Organizers had planned to place sanitation stations in the food court area, with an additional 300 hand pumps at exhibitor booths.
Last Tuesday, about 345 authors were scheduled to attend the 2020 festival.