Officials announced Wednesday morning that Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parades—scheduled to take place this weekend—are now cancelled due to the worsening outbreak of novel coronavirus.
We know what the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations mean to us in the City of Chicago — but we, as elected officials, can’t take any chances with the health of our residents.
Out of an abundance of caution, the City is postponing its three St. Patrick’s Day parades and river dyeing. pic.twitter.com/091LGM1SdF
— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) March 11, 2020
Officials announced eight new cases on Tuesday afternoon, bringing the current total in Illinois to 19.
“Like cities across the nation we concluded having a parade at this time was unnecessary to the public’s health,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a morning press conference.
The website for the downtown Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade posted an update Wednesday morning announcing the cancellation. Both the Northwest Side and Southside Irish parades, scheduled to take place on Sunday, have also been cancelled. The city will also cancel the annual dyeing of the river green.
“Chicago’s South Side Irish Parade is one of the community’s most anticipated and celebrated traditions,” said 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea. “While this decision will be disappointing to many, minimizing the potential for COVID-19’s spread must be our top priority.”
“We as elected leaders can’t take any chances with the health of our residents…This was the right call,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Now that we’ve reached the stage where we’re seeing regular new cases reflecting additional spread in our communities, we have to make every effort to minimize the spread as we can.”
On Tuesday Governor Pritzker said that decisions on whether or not to proceed with mass gatherings would continue to be made on a local level.
“The CDC is talking about avoiding mass gatherings,” Pritzker told reporters. “They aren’t giving a number to what is a mass gathering and I think that’s not helpful, frankly, and in a number of ways the federal government has not been helpful, but we are in conversations about what to do. Chicago is not the only place that has large gatherings around St. Patrick’s Day.”
Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, urged those in vulnerable or at-risk groups such as seniors or people with compromised immune systems to avoid any unnecessary travel or contact with large groups of people. Arwady also urged anyone feeling feeling ill or experiencing symptoms to stay home and avoid any unnecessary social interaction, and to consult medical professionals as quickly as possible.
In a statement released prior to the press conference, officials urged the public to continue basic safety measures.
“We want to be sure that everyone understands the daily measures they can take to keep themselves safe such as social distancing, routine handwashing and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth,” said Arwady. “We remain in constant communication with the CDC as well as federal, state and local officials to determine the best protocol moving forward in this ever-evolving situation.”
The spread of the virus is likely to have an effect on next Tuesday’s primary election in Illinois as well. The Chicago Sun-Times reports seven city nursing homes and at least a dozen other locations have requested to be relieved of serving as polling places for both early voting and on election day. Nursing homes and other facilities that care for some of those most vulnerable to the virus need to protect their patients.
“We have a mixture of situations because then it becomes a health issue to move them to another site, to have them travel off the grounds of the facility to go vote somewhere else,” Jim Allen, a spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections, told the Sun-Times regarding residents of nursing homes. Allen also added that he suspects the virus “may affect turnout as well.”
Mayor Lightfoot said that it’s still safe for the general public to attend local polling places and that the city is working with election officials to make sure “appropriate measures are in place.” Meanwhile, officials are also urging people concerned about the virus to vote by mail. Chicago residents can still apply to vote by mail until Thursday.
For more information, please visit www.chicago.gov/coronavirus and http://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/coronavirus