Two of the most celebrated and renowned St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the U.S. -- the New York and Chicago parades -- fell to the coronavirus Wednesday. Both events attract millions of revelers who line the streets and pack Irish pubs -- where millions of dollars are spent celebrating the holiday.
In canceling New York's Fifth Avenue gala, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement, "Today I had several conversations with the organizers of the St. Patrick's Day Parade to determine whether the parade should move forward in light of the evolving coronavirus situation and increased case count in the New York City area. Following those conversations, I recommended and the parade's leadership agreed to postpone this year's parade due to the high density and the large volume of marchers and spectators who attend."
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters at a news conference, "Like cities across the nation, we concluded that having a parade at this time posed an unnecessary risk to the public's health."
The Windy City's parade had been scheduled for Saturday, ahead of St. Patrick's Day on Tuesday and was to feature the annual tradition of turning the Chicago River green.
"We all know what the St. Patrick's Day celebrations mean to the city of Chicago," said Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, "Because of what we've seen nationally, and across the world, of the increased risk of large gatherings, this was the right call."
The hardest hit will be the pubs and restaurants. "For us it's devastating," said Kieran Aherne, regional manager of Fado Irish Pub, four blocks from the Chicago River that ordinarily would be dyed green. "Saturday is bigger here than St. Patrick's Day and this will be a six-figure loss for us."
Indeed, it was deemed the right call in cities from Boston and Philadelphia to Denver, Dallas and San Francisco. The cities of Dublin -- the one in Ohio and the one in Ireland -- also pulled the plugs on their parades.
The cancellations come as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases climbs. In the U.S., the total has topped 1,000. Worldwide, more than 119,000 have been infected, and more than 4,200 have died. Lightfoot's announcement came a day after officials announced that the number of cases in Illinois had climbed by eight to 19.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
In a news release, Lightfoot's office said the city will work with organizers to reschedule the parade. But Aherne, who said businesses like his have already taken a financial hit with recent trade show cancellations, thinks such talk is just so much spilled beer. "This isn't like some charity event that you can reschedule and double back," he said. "Once you get into the middle of April, that ship has sailed." "We all know what the St. Patrick's Day celebrations mean to the city of Chicago," said Pritzker, a Democrat. "Because of what we've seen nationally, and across the world, of the increased risk of large gatherings, this was the right call."