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Coronavirus prompts Verizon to pull out of RSA sponsorship

Verizon joins AT&T Cybersecurity, IBM and a small number of exhibitors in declining to attend the event.

Flight attendants at the San Francisco International Airport.
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Concerns over a novel coronavirus, now called SARS-CoV-2, have led more corporate sponsors and attendees to pull out of the RSA Conference, event organizers said on Friday. Verizon has now joined AT&T Cybersecurity and IBM in ending its participation in the security-focused event, scheduled to kick off Monday evening in San Francisco.

Conference organizers said in a statement that the event is still expected to draw more than 40,000 attendees. When organizers announced AT&T Cybersecurity's cancellation on Thursday, they added that 1.2% of individuals who registered for the event have canceled. At that time, a total of 13 companies had pulled out as sponsors or exhibitors; six of those were from China and canceled due to travel restrictions.

"We understand and respect their decision," the event organizers said about Verizon's cancellation.

Verizon didn't immediately provide a comment. Its decision also follows Facebook calling off a March marketing summit in San Francisco that was expected to draw 4,000 people, also over coronavirus fears. In Barcelona, the Mobile World Conference scheduled for earlier in February was also cancelled. The virus has infected about 77,000 people, causing a disease now called COVID-19. The vast majority of infections have occurred in mainland China, one of the most visited countries in the world.

The annual RSA Conference is one of the largest events in cybersecurity and turns the area surrounding San Francisco's Moscone Center convention venue into a nexus of hacking experts, corporate executives and salespeople looking to cut deals and share insights.

Conference organizers pointed to a letter to RSA Conference attendees from San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who provided assurances that the city is working with health officials to monitor the virus.

"Risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 in San Francisco is low, as the virus is not circulating in our community," Breed said.