CHICAGO — The city’s top health official is urging people not to throw large St. Patrick’s Day celebrations during the coronavirus pandemic.
St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 is a major holiday in Chicago, where many people have at least a hint of Irish heritage. The city’s biggest celebrations — the parades Downtown and on the Far South Side — have already been canceled due to the pandemic.
Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, is asking people to cancel their private parties, too, because gatherings increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
“I would just ask people: Not the year yet for a big celebration” for St. Patrick’s Day, Arwady said during a Thursday livestream.
Chicago has gained more control over its outbreak since the fall surge, when dozens of residents per day where dying from COVID-19. And the city’s vaccine campaign is well underway, with more than 562,000 doses administered so far.
But not even 10 percent of the city is vaccinated, Arwady said, and the number of new cases being reported per day is still considered moderately risky.
“If you’re gonna be out, please just wear the mask, keep practicing caution,” Arwady said.
Officials have made similar pleas for holidays throughout the past year due to COVID-19 — and they’ve said it did help Chicago and Illinois keep new cases down when people didn’t travel or gather for evens like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Arwady said St. Patrick’s Day stands out to her because it was this holiday last year that marked the beginning of pandemic restrictions in Chicago.
Last year, the parades were canceled just as panic grew in Chicago — and internationally — over the spread of COVID-19. Their cancellations marked an unofficial start of the pandemic here, though cases had been reported since Jan. 24, 2020.
Despite the cancellations and the pleas of Gov. JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot, people still packed into bars during the holiday weekend.
Officials first tried to say the 2020 parades were only delayed, not canceled. But that quickly changed as COVID-19 spread throughout Illinois, leading to a months-long stay at home order that started March 21.
Though the city and state now have looser restrictions in place, events with large crowds aren’t permitted to prevent the virus from spreading.
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