The Sarasota Film Festival has been indefinitely postponed.
The event, one of the most prestigious independent film festivals in the country, was scheduled from March 27 to April 5.
But based on guidance from Gov. Ron DeSantis and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the event won’t go forward because of fears of the coronavirus pandemic spreading further in Florida.
“We are very appreciative of all the support we have received from the industry and local community and as always the health and safety of our audiences remains a top priority,” said SFF Chairman Mark Famiglio, “and we look forward to determining a new vision for this festival at the appropriate time and supporting our filmmakers in the months to come.”
The announcement came after the first cases of positive tests for COVID-19 originating in Sarasota County. A 50-year-old and 70-year-old, both men, were tested presumptively positive for the virus. It’s not yet known whether those infections came while the men were traveling or if they come from community spread.
The first case of coronavirus in Florida was a Manatee County man, age 63, who was treated at Doctors Hospital in Sarasota.
As recently as Thursday, Sarasota city officials were meeting with Sarasota Film Festival officials about appropriate precautions to take with mass events. But the last few days have seen a flood of major event cancellations throughout Florida, including news Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort will close because of the virus.
DeSantis on Thursday recommended mass gatherings of 250 people or more be canceled throughout the state. As of this writing, Florida has had 51 presumptive positive tests for individuals, 45 for Florida residents and six for non-residents, according to the Department of Health.
The festival this year has scheduled actors Wendie Malick, Richard Jenkins and Connie Bielsen to attend.