3-15-2020-5-46-01-PM-9607140

Rain on the parade

Coronavirus fears douse St. Patrick’s event

By Joan Hadac

Archer Avenue did not go green on Saturday, after Mayor Lori Lightfoot withdrew all city support from Garfield Ridge’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade over coronavirus concerns.

Five days before the festivities were to take place, city workers showed up along Archer Avenue and quietly removed wooden horses that had been dropped off at intersections from Narragansett to Oak Park.

The withdrawal of city support meant that side streets would not be blocked offÑcreated an obvious safety hazard.

Organizers then briefly considered moving the parade back to 53rd Street, where it started in 2015, but within hours announced that the parade was cancelled entirely.

Similarly, St. Patrick’s Day parades elsewhere in the city were cancelledÑor postponed, as the mayor said at a press conference at the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications headquarters on the West Side.

Lightfoot said her decision follows guidance and information from public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and counterparts in other jurisdictions experiencing similar impacts from COVID-19.

“The health and safety of Chicago’s residents will always be our highest priority; and like many other cities across the nation and globe, we are postponing this year’s parades as a precautionary measure to prevent any additional spread of COVID-19,” Lightfoot said. “I want everyone to rest assured that your city and state continue to work around the clock to stay ahead of this issue and ensure everyone remains protected, informed, and safe.”

In Garfield Ridge, reaction was mixed outside the Jewel-Osco at Archer and Mayfield.

“This makes no sense to me,” said Tom Farneusz. “You’re not going to get this virus outdoors at a parade. The danger is when people are packed together indoors, breathing on each other, coughing and sneezing. So the mayor cancels paradesÑbut what about kids jammed together in overcrowded schools or people on crowded CTA buses or trains? You’re more likely to catch a cold in those placesÑor even here at a grocery storeÑthan you are at a parade outdoors.”

Julio Nieto agreed with the mayor’s decision.

“She has to do what she has to do,” he said. “Imagine if she didn’t cancel the parades and then later it comes out that people got sick and died because of [attending a parade]. She’s doing her job. She’s doing the right thing.”

Sheila McIlvaney said she would “miss all the people, especially the children, all dressed up in green costumes. This parade on Archer had become such a wonderful thing for the neighborhood. I hope they can re-schedule it for May or something.”

In confirming the cancellation of the Archer Avenue parade, Garfield Ridge business leader Al Cacciottolo issued a reminder for everyone to not let coronavirus fears stop them from patronizing local businesses.

“The decision by the mayor and the administration is understandable and made in the city’s best interests; so let’s all keep washing our hands and following the simple advice from public health leaders,” he said. “But at the same time, let’s redouble our efforts to shop locally and keep our neighborhood businesses functioning. They employ local men, women and teens and are vital to the economic health of our community.”

More cancellations possible, mayor says

As part of the new measures, the mayor said her administration will continue to work with state and county agencies on an ongoing basis to review all future non-essential, large gatherings and provide recommendations to the appropriate parties as needed. As it relates to other large planned events, the city’s guidance and protocol for large events will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

“We all know what the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations mean to us in Chicago Ñ but as elected leaders, we can’t take any chances with the health of our residents,” said Governor JB Pritzker at the same press conference. “Because of what we’ve seen nationally and across the world of the increased risk of large gatherings, this was the right call and I thank Mayor Lightfoot for her leadership in this difficult situation. Now that we’ve reached the stage where we’re seeing regular new casesÑreflecting additional spread within our communitiesÑwe have to make every effort to minimize further spread.”

For anyone attending large gatherings, the Chicago’s public health officials recommend practicing common sense health safety tips and social distancing, including:

¥ Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

¥ Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

¥ Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

¥ Stay home when you are sick.

¥ Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

¥ Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. At this time, no special sanitizing processes beyond routine cleaning are necessary or recommended to slow the spread of respiratory illness.

Vulnerable populationsÑincluding people age 60 or older or with underlying health conditions–may be more susceptible to COVID-19.

City health officials encourage members of vulnerable populations and anyone who is sick to remain home and not attend large gatherings.

“Protecting the health and wellness of both Chicago’s residents and visitors is our top priority as we continue to learn more about the nature of COVID-19,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, M.D., Commissioner of CDPH. “We want to be sure that everyone understands the daily measures they can take to keep themselves safe such as social distancing, routine handwashing and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth. We remain in constant communication with the CDC as well as federal, state and local officials to determine the best protocol moving forward in this ever-evolving situation.”

To ensure the safety of Chicagoans celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, OEMC activated the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) as part of an effort to monitor any activities and crowds as well as coordinate resource requests and responses to individual situations. Additionally, OEMC has established the COVID-19 Task Force in partnership with the Mayor’s Office and CDPH to address essential areas of operations and collaborate with departments and sister agencies on preparedness and preventive measures.

“Ensuring that City’s robust response plan is both efficient and effective for residents is our top priority,” said Rich Guidice, Executive Director at OEMC. “To ensure that our City remains prepared in the wake of this fast-moving and evolving situation, OEMC has created the COVID-19 Task Force with 12 unique subcommittees to continuously address and update our response tactics.”

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois is increasing, and current information suggests that person-to-person spread will continue to occur and more cases will be identified in the United States and in Chicago. CDPH’s goal is to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in Chicago by detecting new cases quickly, minimizing transmission and developing guidance to prepare communities to respond.

More information and updates on COVID-19 can be found online at cdc.gov and chicago.gov. People may also contact the Chicago Department of Public Health at [email protected]

Tim Hadac contributed to this story.

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