Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parades and the city's iconic river dyeing have been postponed amid coronavirus concerns, city officials announced Wednesday.
The downtown Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade, which was set for Saturday, as well as Sunday's South Side Irish Parade and the Northwest Side parades will not step off as a coronavirus outbreak continues to bring more cases in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. The annual dyeing of the Chicago River will also be rescheduled "to a later date," city officials said.
“The health and safety of Chicago’s residents will always be our highest priority and like many other cities across the nation and globe, we are postponing this year’s parades as a precautionary measure to prevent any additional spread of COVID-19,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “I want everyone to rest assured that your City and State continue to work around the clock to stay ahead of this issue and ensure everyone remains protected, informed, and safe.”
Lightfoot said during a press conference Wednesday morning that rescheduling the events "was not an easy decision" but having the festivities would "pose unnecessary risk."
“We all know what the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations mean to us in the city of Chicago — but as elected leaders, we can’t take any chances with the health of our residents,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. “Because of what we’ve seen nationally and across the world of the increased risk of large gatherings, this was the right call and I thank Mayor Lightfoot for her leadership in this difficult situation. Now that we’ve reached the stage where we’re seeing regular new cases—reflecting additional spread within our communities—we have to make every effort to minimize further spread.”
The postponement of the festivities come as several other major events around the city are canceled amid growing concerns over the outbreak in Chicago.
State officials have been urging people, particularly elderly residents, to avoid mass gatherings in the area and several other locations, including Boston and Dublin, have canceled their St. Patrick's Day events amid the global outbreak.
"Chicago’s South Side Irish Parade is one of the community’s most anticipated and celebrated traditions,” Ald. Matt O’Shea, 19th Ward, said in a statement. “While this decision will be disappointing to many, minimizing the potential for COVID-19's spread must be our top priority.”
Lightfoot did not say when the events will be rescheduled, but said she does believe "it's going to be a postponement" and not a cancellation.
"We will work with [organizers] to get an appropriate date sometime in the future," she said.
Pritzker noted that decisions across the state, as of now, will be made on a local level.
"The CDC is talking about avoid mass gatherings. 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," Pritzker said. "Chicago is not the only place that has large gatherings around St. Patrick’s Day."
Chicago officials said they are also activating the city's Emergency Operations Center to monitor crowds and other St. Patrick's Day events happening around Chicago.
Two of the eight cases were in Chicago, along with at least 11 others.
Further information on the newest cases, including how they may have developed the virus, was not released.
"The State of Illinois continues to take action to reduce spread of COVID-19 in Illinois and we again want to encourage people to start thinking and preparing now in the event they are not able to go to work, if schools are closed, if public transportation is not available, and how else their lives will be disrupted by this outbreak," Ezike said.
Pritzker, who on Monday declared a disaster proclamation in the state, said he has demanded the state receiving more testing kits as soon as possible.
"The reality is we’re not shutting down the city or the state but we want people to be smart," Lightfoot said.