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Women of the World Festival in Baltimore canceled over coronavirus concerns

Former Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen answers questions about the coronavirus.

The Women of the World (WOW) Festival, which was expected to bring more than 1,000 attendees to Baltimore this weekend, has been canceled amid “growing concerns and uncertainty” about the coronavirus.

The festival, which had been scheduled to take place Saturday at the Columbus Center in the Inner Harbor, was expected to draw attendees from across the country, said organizers who added they decided to call off the festival “to side with safety and mitigate potential further spread.”

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“It was a difficult decision, but participant safety has to come first," the festival said in a statement on its website. “Although, as of this morning (Thursday), there have not been any confirmed cases in Maryland, we believe, because of Baltimore’s positioning just north of Washington, D.C. and south of large cities such as New York and Philadelphia, it would be prudent to side with safety and mitigate potential further spread among the more than 1,000 expected attendees – with some traveling from across the nation."

On Thursday night, Maryland health officials confirmed the state’s first three cases of coronavirus, the respiratory disease that has sickened about 100,000 across the globe and killed more than 3,000.

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Eleven people have died from the coronavirus in the United States, 10 of them in Washington state.

The festival is part of a “global movement that celebrates women and girls as a force for positive change,” its website says.

One of more than a dozen WOW Festival sites around the world, Baltimore’s forum is designed to “inspire, engage and energize women and men in the Baltimore region by providing diverse forums for discussion and action to advance positive transformation for Baltimore and beyond,” the website says.

The WOW movement was founded in 2010 by Jude Kelly, the artistic director of London’s Southbank Centre complex, to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, to celebrate women and girls and recognize the obstacles they face, and to “create a festival for everyone.”

“It is bold and broad-based in its approach, both lively and serious, and feeds the demand to discuss anything and everything,” the website says. “It brings people together from all corners of society – both speakers and audience members – energizing and providing the inspiration and tools to make change.”

WOW Festival organizers have not yet said whether it will be rescheduled, but attendees will be refunded in the next five to seven business days.

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