Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot together on Wednesday urged anyone feeling sick to stay home amid the coronavirus outbreak, postponing all St. Patrick's Day celebrations for the weekend.
City officials announced that Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parades and the iconic dyeing of the river would be postponed just before holding a news conference with health officials Wednesday morning.
"As you might imagine, this was not an easy decision and we don't take it lightly but we have been in discussions with the parade organizers and we were mindful of the impact that this event has on our city and our communities," Lightfoot said. "Nonetheless, like cities across the nation, we concluded that having a parade at this time poses unnecessary risks to the public's health."
"We all know what the St. Patrick's Day celebrations mean to all of us in the city of Chicago, but we as elected leaders can't take any chances with the health of our residents," Pritzker said. "Because of what we've seen nationally and across the world of the increased risks of large gatherings, this was the right call."
"Now that we've reached the stage where we're seeing regular new coronavirus cases, reflecting additional spread within our communities, we have to make every effort to minimize further spread as best we can," he continued.
Health officials on Tuesday announced eight new cases of the coronavirus in Illinois, bringing the total to 19 in the state.
"We want everyone to start thinking and preparing now for the virus to circulate more widely in the community," Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said at a news conference Tuesday. "This may include cancelling large events, it may include limiting going out in the community, working from home if possible."
Officials in both Boston and Dublin have also canceled their St. Patrick's Day events amid the global outbreak that has sickened more than 113,702 people around the world, killing more than 4,000, according to the World Health Organization.
The downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade Saturday and the South Side Irish Parade Sunday typically attract hundreds of thousands of people.
Among the eight new cases in Illinois announced Tuesday were the first two cases outside Cook County.
Those two cases include a teenage resident of McHenry County and a woman in her 60s from Kane County.
"Neither have a travel history to affected countries or close contact with a known COVID-19 case based on our preliminary investigations, but the investigations are still ongoing," said Ezike.
The other six cases in Cook County include a man in his 70s, a woman in her 60s, a woman in her 40s and a man in his 40s. Two other cases were reported in Chicago and involved two men in their 40s, officials said.
The patients were all said to be in stable condition and in isolation.
Health officials said the numbers are expected to climb and it may be hard to establish an accurate count just yet. Complicating matters, Pritzker said there’s a lack of testing kits available.
“I am very frustrated with the federal government. We have not received enough tests,” Pritzker said.
"As of Friday, 200 kits were used in Illinois, the entire state, so they’re getting 75,000 now and they’re going to be more coming," Rep. Rodney Davis said, adding that he hopes it doesn't turn into a political fight.