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Amazon cancels re:MARS 2020 event amid COVID-19 outbreak

Amazon has canceled re:MARS 2020, an annual AI event that focuses on machine learning, automation, robotics and space, over concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was scheduled to be held June 16 to 19, 2020 in Las Vegas.

Organizers of the event said in a statement on its website that the event will be cancelled and guests who purchased tickets will receive a full refund. Here’s the statement:

Thank you for your interest in re:MARS 2020. Our top priority is the well-being of our employees, customers, partners, and event attendees. We have been closely monitoring the situation with COVID-19, and after much consideration, we have made the decision to cancel re:MARS 2020. All guests who have purchased tickets will receive a full refund of registration fees. Hotel rooms booked through our conference website will be canceled free of charge. Over the course of the coming weeks, we will explore other ways to engage the community.

Amazon launched re:MARS in 2019 and last year featured founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Landing AI founder and CEO Andrew Ng, actor and producer Robert Downey, Jr., MIT Media Lab researcher Dr. Kate Darling and Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert, and Zoox CEO Aicha Evans, among others.

COVID-19, a disease caused by a new virus that is a member of the coronavirus family and a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses. COVID-19 has caused governments and companies to cancel tech, business and automotive events around the world, including the NCAA March Madness basketball tournaments, professional sports games in the NBA  and NHL, the Geneva International Motor Show, MWC in Barcelona and the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Disneyland and California Adventure will close through the end of the month. On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, a designation that allows the government to free up more federal resources that states can access as they respond to outbreak.

Amazon issued guidance Thursday in response to the COVID-19 outbreak recommending that global employees who are able to work from home to do so through the end of March.

“We continue to work closely with public and private medical experts to ensure we are taking the right precautions as the situation continues to evolve,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an email statement. “As a result, we are now recommending that all of our employees globally who are able to work from home do so through the end of March.”

Earlier this week, Amazon said it would provide two weeks of extra paid time off for full and part-time employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine. The company said it will continue to pay all hourly employees, including food service, janitorial and security staff, who support its offices around the world.

Source: TechCrunch

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