CHICAGO (CBS)-- All three of the St. Patrick's Day parades in Chicago this weekend, as well as the dyeing of the Chicago River, have been postponed indefinitely, amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said officials would try to reschedule the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade, the South Side Irish Parade in Beverly, and the Northwest Side Irish Parade in Norwood Park for later dates. She also said the tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day would be postponed.
"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 on our communities. Nonetheless, like cities across the nation, we concluded that having a parade at this time posed an unnecessary risk to the public's health," Lightfoot said.
Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th), whose ward hosts the South Side Irish Parade, said he supported the decision to postpone it.
"At times like this, it's absolutely imperative that we rely on the expertise of our medical professionals, and we are in good hands," he said.
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said, with nearly 1 million people expected to come out for the various St. Patrick's Day festivities, it was the right decision to cancel the parades.
"As the mayor said, this is not a decision taken lightly, but it is in line with what we know about the science of this virus, and particularly settings where we are not able to practice the full social distancing recommendations of the CDC," Arwady said.
Lightfoot said she was confident parade organizers would be able to eventually reschedule the St. Patrick's Day festivities.
"We do believe it's going to be a postponement, and we will work with them to get an appropriate date sometime in the future, so we can have the celebration at that time," she said.
Lightfoot said no decision has been made yet about whether or not to cancel the Shamrock Shuffle on March 22. The annual race is the unofficial kickoff of running season in Chicago.
"We haven't made a determination one way or the other yet, but clearly that's on our radar screen, and we will continue discussions with them," she said.
The mayor also said she is not asking bars or restaurants to cancel any St. Patrick's Day weekend plans they might have made.
"The reality is, we're not shutting down the entire city and state, but we want people to be smart and follow the guidance, exercise common sense," she said.
The mayor and health officials reminded Chicagoans to regularly wash their hands, avoid mass gatherings, and to stay home if they're sick to avoid spreading the virus.
"For God's sake, regardless of your age, if you're sick, stay home. Don't go to work, don't go to school, don't try to be a hero and tough it out. This is not the time for that. If you're not feeling well, you need to stay home," Lightfoot said.
The mayor and Gov. JB Pritzker said they realize staying home from work will be difficult for many workers who receive little if any paid time off, and the governor stressed that's why he has been urging the federal government to waive the "able and available to work" rule for receiving unemployment benefits during the coronavirus outbreak.
"They have not provided that to any state yet, although they seem on the verge of perhaps giving it to one state. This needs to be declared as a national disaster around coronavirus, so that we can have the release of the ability to provide unemployment benefits, because many of the people who won't be able to work who are asked to stay home for 14 days are living paycheck to paycheck," Pritzker said.
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