Skip to contents

Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parades, River Dyeing Canceled Due To Coronavirus Concerns

The events draw more than one million people to Chicago to celebrate together — which is exactly what health officials don't want as coronavirus spreads.

A troop of Irish dancers walk in the South Side Irish Parade.
Kate Gardiner/Flickr
  • Credibility:

DOWNTOWN — Chicago’s famed St. Patrick’s Day parades and the dyeing of the Chicago River are canceled due to coronavirus.

The Downtown parade, which attracts hundreds of thousands of people, was to be held Saturday after the dyeing of the Chicago River, an annual tradition. But those two iconic events are canceled “as a precautionary measure to prevent further spread” of coronavirus, according to the Mayor’s Office.

The South Side Irish Parade, which gets up to 150,000 people, and the Northwest Side Irish Parade, which were set for Sunday, are also canceled due to the virus.

The cancellations were needed because the events bring “massive” crowds to Chicago, which makes it difficult for people to practice “social distancing,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Unofficial large gatherings and bar crawls will still happen, officials acknowledged during a Wednesday news conference, but Chicagoans and visitors are being urged to avoid large crowds and practice basic health and hygiene guidelines to limit the spread of coronavirus and other illnesses.

The Shamrock Shuffle is still on for now, but the city will talk with organizers later Wednesday to see what steps organizers are taking to make sure participants stay safe and distance themselves from each other.

“The reality is, we’re not shutting down the entire city and the state,” Lightfoot said. But the cancellations were necessary because “God forbid we see a spread or spike based upon this kind of public event. None of us wanted that.”

The events bring more than one million people to Chicago, according to the Mayor’s Office. Officials said the parades are being postponed but did not give a date the festivities would occur.

The postponements will have a “big effect” on the local economy as businesses rely on large events, Lightfoot said, but she’s confident Chicago’s “diverse and robust economy” will rebound.

RELATED: Coronavirus In Chicago: Here’s What’s Happening Today And How To Stay Safe

The parades have been held for years to honor Chicago’s significant Irish American population, which will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday.

This was to be the 65th anniversary of the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which normally brags on its website, “Parade cancelation? Never! Snow, rain or Arctic cold, the parade goes on.”

But health officials have warned against such large gatherings as they try to halt the spread of coronavirus. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 19 confirmed cases of the virus in Illinois, the majority of them in Cook County.

Ireland already canceled all of its St. Patrick’s Day parades, and Boston — which also has a prominent Irish American community — canceled its festivities earlier this week, both places citing the coronavirus.

Chicago will continue to consult with state and county agencies to “review all future non-essential, large gatherings,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

“We all know what the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations mean to us in the city of Chicago — but we, as elected leaders, can’t take any chances with the health of our residents,” said Gov. JB Pritzker in a news release.

Officials said people should avoid all large gatherings and shouldn’t leave their homes — not for events, work or school — if they feel sick. Those who have underlying conditions or compromised immune systems should especially avoid crowds, officials said.

Coronavirus is mild in the vast majority of cases, but it can be dangerous, particularly for people who are elderly or who have compromised immune systems.

The virus spreads person to person between people who are in close contact and through respiratory droplets, like those released when someone coughs or sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Symptoms of coronavirus appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus and include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC.


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

How To Protect Yourself

First, reject the hype: You don’t need a facemask if you’re well. The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where corona is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.