Big events getting cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak are nothing new these days, but some still sting when the announcements come. The latest casualty: The huge North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), scheduled for June 5 through the 20th in Detroit, the heart of America’s now stilled automobile production industry.

The event was to be held at the TCF Center, which many still refer to as the Cobo, from its historical designation as Cobo Hall and the Cobo Center. The auto show has been a fixture at the convention facility since 1965. This year, it will instead be repurposed by FEMA as a field hospital to treat victims of the coronavirus and Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, according to the Detroit Free Press. “The health and welfare of the citizens of Detroit and Michigan is paramount. TCF Center is the ideal location for this important function at this critical and unprecedented time,” NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts said in a memo. The Detroit Free Press said the event draws close to a million people, meaning the cancellation will extend losses to numerous local businesses already reeling from coronavirus closures and citizens self-quarantining.

FEMA made the call to cancel the show, but even though it seems far off in June, no one can say they are really very surprised. A New York Times story published March 27 said cases are now appearing with increased frequency away from America’s coastlines and more in the nation’s heartlands. Detroit is one of the cities expected to be hit hard. The show’s date on the calendar had already been moved from January to June of this year, but not due to the epidemic. Organizers had hoped to take advantage of the late spring date to add outdoor events and give visitors reason to explore the city during good weather, spreading the wealth as it were.

With the United States now leading the world in active coronavirus cases, despite comparatively low penetration of testing on the general population, health experts are warning that the nation is still on the upward leg of the infection curve, with many more Americans likely infected than current estimates indicate.

The show has already been rescheduled for July 11-26 of 2021. But as of Sunday, the official website for the 2020 show still pulsed with an enticing promotional video and links for admittance. Like auto shows and events of every kind around the globe, it’s now all for naught. Whether there will be some kind of online event remains to be seen, a request for comment from Forbes has gone unanswered so far.



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