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Workday cancels internal sales conference attended by thousands over coronavirus fears

Aneel Bhursi, co-founder and chief executive officer of Workday Inc.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Workday has canceled its annual internal sales meeting over fears of the coronavirus outbreak and will be moving the program online.

The Workday Sales Kickoff, or SKO, was scheduled for March 2 through March 4 in Orlando, Florida, and was supposed to draw around 3,000 people, a spokeswoman told CNBC. Workday provides cloud-based human resources and other software for enterprises, and like many other enterprise software companies, holds an annual event for sales and other employees to set goals and strategy for the coming year.

“The wellbeing of our employees and communities is our top priority, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to make our global sales kickoff a virtual experience to ensure we rally our team in the safest way possible,” Workday spokesperson Jeff Shadid confirmed in a statement to CNBC.

The flu-like coronavirus, named COVID-19, has affected over 80,000 people globally and killed at least 2,700 since it was discovered Dec. 31 in China. Over the weekend, South Korea, Italy and Iran reported a sharp increase in cases, which led some health officials to fear the virus cannot be contained. Workday’s leadership team cited their concerns over the increasing number of global cases, according to the memo.

Workday’s decision to make this year’s conference digital is the latest among a slew of exhibition or conference cancellations worldwide over fears of a pandemic.

Earlier this month, organizers of the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest trade show for the mobile phone industry, canceled the Barcelona, Spain-based event just two weeks before it was supposed to occur. Facebook canceled its San Francisco-based Global Marketing Summit, which was to expected draw 4,000 people in early March, “out of an abundance of caution.” Facebook and Sony also pulled out of March’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday outlined how businesses should likely react if the coronavirus spreads throughout the United States.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a conference call that local communities and cities may need to “modify, postpone or cancel mass gatherings.”

“For adults, businesses can replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences and increase teleworking options,” Messonnier said.