Boston Cancels St. Patrick’s Day Parade Over Coronavirus Fears

Scott Eisen/Getty Images Paradegoers watch as the annual South Boston St. Patrick's Parade passes on March 20, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Boston has made the painful decision to cancel its iconic St. Patrick’s Day Parade out of “an abundance of caution” over the global spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has announced.

“While the risk in Boston remains low, this situation is changing very quickly and we are closely monitoring any local cases. 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,” the mayor said in his statement.

The parade had been scheduled to take place Sunday, March 15 and wind its way through South Boston in the heart of Boston’s Irish community.

The Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade Is an Institution in the City, With Some Estimates Saying It Dates Back Almost 300 Years

Dominick Reuter/AFP via Getty ImagesBoston Mayor Marty Walsh marches in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston, Massachusetts, on March 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP via Getty Images)

Although historians aren’t positive when Boston’s first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held (some estimates put it back almost 300 years to 1724) it has for decades been a major festival attracting both residents and tourists as well as thousands of partying students from the many colleges in the Boston metro area.

The mayor’s decision not to risk attracting large crowds along the traditional parade route now leaves a question mark hanging over the next major upcoming event scheduled for the downtown: the Boston Marathon in April.

The decision to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day parade comes at point where the City of Boston has only one confirmed case of a resident who has the COVID-19 coronavirus (a 20-year-old student at UMass Boston who had traveled to Wuhan, China) but it has eight other “presumptively positive” cases who have been asked to place themselves into voluntary isolation at their homes while the Centers for Disease Control carry out further tests.

There Are 40 Presumed Positive Cases in Massachusetts, Including Several From an Outbreak at Biopharmaceutical Company, State Officials Say

DOMINICK REUTER/AFP via Getty ImagesA sign for biotechnology company, Biogen.

Massachusetts Department of Public Health officials announced that as of Monday afternoon, March 9, 2020, the statewide total for Massachusetts is 40 presumed positive cases with just the one confirmed (the case in Boston) to date. So far only four of those patients have required hospitalization, state officials said.

Most of the Massachusetts cases, some 32 in all, have been identified by state officials as being either employees of the company Biogen or individuals who had close contacts with Biogen employees. Of the other nine potential cases identified in Massachusetts, four were travel-related and the remaining five are still under investigation.

Biogen became the unwitting focus of the outbreak in Massachusetts when four executives from the biopharmaceutical company, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts just across the Charles River from Boston, attended a series of meetings at an employee conference which lasted for several days in late February at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel right on the edge of Boston Harbor in Boston’s Seaport District.

Other potential cases of COVID-19 coronavirus which have been detected in Tennessee and Indiana have also been traced to the February Biogen conference in Boston.

Biogen, by some estimates the world’s third-largest pharmaceutical company with over 8,300 employees around the globe, has issued a statement saying that everyone who attended their conference in Boston in late February, which could be as many as 175 people, has been asked to stay home in self-quarantine as a result.

Within an hour of the mayor’s announcement about the parade, health officials in the town of Arlington which sits just a few miles northwest of the city on the outskirts of Greater Boston, announced that an elementary school student who had been under observation in their town because one of the their parents is a presumptively positive case is now also presumed to have the COVID-19 coronavirus.  The announcement said the child’s case is already included in the 40 presumptive cases identified by the Massachusetts Department of Health in their latest update on the statewide situation.

Arlington officials said that although the child’s school, The Stratton Elementary School, had been closed as a precaution on Monday so that additional cleaning and disinfecting efforts could be carried out “with cleaning sprays and electrostatic machines,” that it and all other elementary schools in Arlington will be open and operating on Tuesday while the student who tested positive remains at home in isolation for the next 14 days.

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