SEBRING — Barely a week after announcing that this year’s Citrus Expo would go forward, quickly spiking COVID-19 infection rates have canceled the event.

Grower and exhibitor interest was high, according to AgNet Media, the organizer of the event. However, in the interest of public safety, organizers have canceled the 2020 2020 Citrus Expo and Vegetable & Specialty Crop Expo.

It’s a tradition that growers have anticipated each year for nearly three decades, put on hiatus this year thanks to recent rapid escalation of COVID-19 cases in Florida.

Robin Loftin, president of AgNet Media, the host of Citrus Expo, made the decision on Monday. While AgNet Media had every intention of producing the event, a public health advisory issued by Florida State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees prompted the company to change that decision.

The advisory requires wearing masks in public places and advises all individuals to refrain from gatherings of more than 50 people.

“When we made the decision to move forward with the Citrus Expo event, Florida had just entered phase two of reopening, COVID-19 cases were down, and the decision to continue with the event made sense,” Loftin said.

“Unfortunately, though,” he continued, “as we have seen with this pandemic over the past three and a half months, there are new developments almost daily.”

Florida has experienced almost two weeks of heavy spikes in cases — most in the thousands.

“Our top priority will always be the health and well-being of our Citrus Expo attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and the AgNet Media team,” Loftin said. “Therefore, we feel it is prudent to cancel the event amid the uncertainty with COVID-19.”

AgNet Media, in conjunction with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, plans to host virtual seminar programs for citrus, vegetable and specialty crop growers.

This will include seminars that would have been presented at the Expo. Details are still being finalized, but plans are to do these seminars in August.

“We understand the value that Citrus Expo brings to growers and industry leaders and we are working to provide a virtual resource that will continue to benefit the industry,” said Event Manager Josh McGill. “Please stay tuned for more information.”