Va Book Fest File

Copies of “The Island of Sea Women” were stacked at the Literary Luncheon with Lisa See during last year’s festival.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Citing the potential for transmission of the novel coronavirus, organizers of the Virginia Festival of the Book have decided to cancel this year’s event.

The five-day celebration of the written word was set for March 18-22 in Charlottesville.

“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 were “working through many other implications of this cancellation” and will post updated information at www.vabook.org.

A Sunday announcement by University of Virginia officials discouraged air travel for nonessential purposes, as well as large gatherings. Book festival organizers noted that more than 350 authors and panelists had been invited to their event and that many would have been 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,” Tuesday’s statement says. “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; that number rose Tuesday to eight. None of the cases is in the Charlottesville community.

“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 festival’s statement says. “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.”

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