KITCHENER -- The Stratford Festival has decided to put the rest of its 2020 season on hold.

In an announcement posted to Twitter, the festival says it came to the "heartbreaking conclusion" on Monday.

"Sadly, we have to come to terms with the fact that we are going to have to put our glorious 2020 season on hold," says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino in a video statement.

He says that, practically, that means they will likely have to delay the 2020 season's offerings until the next festival season.

Cimolino says that, if it's possibleto return to the stage sooner for a fall or holiday show, they will let festival-goers know.

Back in March, the festival announced it would be cancelling its shows through the end of May. As a result, the company said it issued nearly 500 temporary layoff notices to festival staff.

Since, the Stratford Festival has begun offering free archival performances online for fans to watch safely amid the pandemic.

"While the creation of a vaccine and anti-viral drugs will cure this pandemic, ultimately what will cure society in its aftermath is art," the announcement from the festival reads.

The festival generates some $135 million in economic activity for the region, a follow-up statement explains.

Thousands of people and hundreds of businesses rely on the tourism that accompanies the festival.

"It is a terrible irony: the Stratford Festival was started in 1953 to save the City of Stratford from economic disaster and now its closure in the face of this pandemic poses its own economic devastation for the region," Cimolino is quoted in an emailed release.

"This is a crushing announcement, for which we at once feel terrible responsibility and yet is entirely beyond our control."

In a news release, Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson said Monday that this was a "devastating blow" to the community.

The City of Stratford is working with a number of stakeholders to help the businesses affected, including the City Centre BIA, Invest Stratford and the Stratford Tourism Alliance.

It's not yet clear what ticketholders can expect now as a result of the cancellations.

The festival says they will be contacted directly about their accounts by email.