The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York has been canceled for the first time in its 258-year history due to coronavirus concerns.
While parade organizers initially denied reports of the event’s impending cancellation Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo — who barred large gatherings during the pandemic — confirmed in a statement that New York would follow the cities of Chicago and Dublin (and Ireland itself) in canceling St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
“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,” Cuomo said in a statement. “And I applaud the parade’s leadership for working cooperatively with us.”
New York’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which began in 1762, typically draws 2 million spectators and over 150,000 marchers, the New York Times reports.
Cuomo’s decision to cancel the parade followed the World Health Organization labeling the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, as well as the governor’s conversation with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“Why would you risk bringing thousands of people together knowing this is a virus that is easily communicable? St. Patrick’s Day is one of the great convenings of a large number of people,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “If you listen to the experts, they are saying you should not have a St. Patrick’s Day convening at this time, which I believe makes sense.”
In defending his decision to cancel the parade in Boston, the city’s mayor Marty Walsh said of COVID-19, “This isn’t the flu. This is something very different. This is something that we don’t know what the end result will be.”
“While the risk in Boston remains low, this situation is changing very quickly and we are closely monitoring any local cases,” Walsh said in a statement. “Our top priority is preventing any new cases, to the best of our ability, and we are paying close attention to guidance from public health officials.”
However, Walsh acknowledged that although the parade had been canceled, Bostonians would still celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.