First time the event will not go on as planned in more than 250 years.
New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which was to take place on March 17, is being postponed — one of the most high profile events to be affected by a respiratory infection pandemic.
“While I know the parade organizers did not make this decision lightly, public health experts agree that one of the most effective ways to contain the spread of the virus is to limit large gatherings and close contacts,” New York State Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement late Wednesday night. “And I applaud the parade’s leadership for working cooperatively with us.”
Sean Lane, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration Committee’s chairman, said the group looked forward “to celebrating the 259th St. Patrick’s Day Parade with the entire City of New York at a later date,” according to the New York Times. The newspaper noted that St. Patrick is the patron saint of both Ireland and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Each year, the archbishop of New York, celebrates a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral prior to the parade and reviews the march from the cathedral’s Fifth Avenue steps.
The announcement came at the end of a day of startling developments: COVID-19, the lung infection caused by the novel coronavirus, was declared a pandemic, affecting all six continents; President Trump banned visitors from continental Europe for 30 days, and a slew of institutions such as universities decided to shutter their doors for the foreseeable future.
And the Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington, the site of one of the worst outbreaks in the United States, announced that there will be no public Masses. It’s the first time a Roman Catholic entity has suspended services in this country for a century.
Other cities besides New York had already decided to nix or postpone their St. Patrick’s Day parades: Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, New Haven, and others, as did Dublin and other cities in Ireland.
For a while, it seemed like New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade might be immune. On Monday, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said there were no plans to cancel. On Wednesday morning, he said he was considering it.
“We have to really think about this one because it’s a beloved event, an important event,” according to the New York Post. He said that there’s a smaller chance of spreading the virus because the parade is outdoors.
But that same day, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that it “makes sense” to cancel.
“We’re going to be making a decision on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I want to speak with a few more people, but I’ve been speaking with health experts — Dr. Anthony Fauci, [director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases], who I believe is one of the best in the nation,” Cuomo said at a news conference. “This is his strong recommendation: just reduce large gatherings. Why would you risk bringing thousands of people together, knowing that this is a virus that easily communicates? … St. Patrick’s Day is one of the great convenings of a large number of people. … If you listen to the experts, they would say you should not be having a St. Patrick’s Day convening at this time, which I believe makes sense.”
In a statement on the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade Inc. website, which was still there Wednesday morning, parade chairman Sean Lane said the event has been held every year since 1762. “We have received no notice from the authorities about postponement at this point,” he said. “We recommend checking with your local health officials, government, and where appropriate, your personal physician for guidance.”
Lane’s statement advised people to follow a link to the Centers for Disease Control and the New York State Government “and take special note for those most at risk.”
“We need to work together as a community to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Lane concluded.
The parade draws a couple of million, with hundreds of marching units, people lining the streets of Fifth Avenue in close proximity, lots of people taking trains and subways and buses to get there, and of course, those in celebratory moods who wish to continue honoring Ireland’s most famous saint in local establishments.
There’s plenty of opportunity to share the potentially flu-like ailment, which has claimed over 4,000 lives worldwide.