Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the parade is canceled. Original story follows the update.
Update: The 41st St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been canceled. Dallas city officials convened Wednesday afternoon and decided to call it off.
“This is like the rest of the country,” said Rosa Fleming, Dallas’ director of convention and event services. “It’s just evolving for us, so we’re trying to make sure we’re being proactive.”
The cancellation covers the parade and official ensuing block party. Fleming says the city hasn’t decided whether it will need increased police presence on Greenville Avenue anyway; many bars and restaurants plan their own celebrations.
Fleming also says the city hasn’t put any cap on the number of people who can attend events going forward. It’s possible that decision could be made in the future. The city of Austin capped attendance at any one event at 2,500 people earlier this week.
Here is the city of Dallas’ release on the cancellation:
Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) and the City of Dallas have conducted a thorough review of the Dallas St. Patrick’s Day Parade and block party scheduled for Saturday, March 14, 2020. As a result of that review the City of Dallas Convention and Event Services is canceling the special event permits for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and block party.
“Canceling the St. Patrick’s Day parade and block party was not an easy decision, but it is the correct and responsible decision,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. “While our region still has only a few ‘presumptive positive’ COVID-19 cases that appear to be related to travel, we are actively making contingency plans for the spread of this illness. Before we made the final decision, I gathered input from our healthcare leaders and our public health partners, discussed the ramifications for our police and firefighters at the parade; met with Governor Abbott; and reviewed how COVID-19 has spread in other parts of the country and the world.”
“An event of this scale, without adequate public health protections, cannot be allowed to occur at this time. Our primary concern is the health, safety, and welfare of our residents, and we will continue to take action accordingly,” Mayor Johnson added.
Additional mass public gatherings will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Original story: Earlier this week, organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade were taking a “Keep Calm and Parade On” approach to the Coronavirus. A press release just yesterday maintained the annual celebration, which brings out more than 125,000 people, would still march down Lower Greenville. (It also announced Mike Rhyner as grand marshal). Today, the city of Dallas has stepped in to re-evaluate.
“We’re huddling later today to see if we can make a decision by close of business about whether to move forward or not,” says Rosa Fleming, Dallas’ director of convention and event services. Fleming says the city has requested guidance from the county health department and that the decision will ultimately fall to top brass: the mayor, the city manager, assistant city managers, and the Office of Emergency Management. The city’s permit ordinance allows cancellation of events due to public health concerns.
This comes the day after Dallas County got word of its first two presumptive positive COVID-19 tests. That prompted the closure of Ursuline Academy and St. Rita Catholic School today. Tarrant County received a presumptive positive yesterday, and Collin County now has three cases.
If Dallas does decide to cancel the event, it’s not the first city to take such a move. This morning, Chicago announced the closure of its massive St. Patrick’s Day celebration, the one where they turn the Chicago River green. Boston canceled on Monday. A change.org petition to cancel the Dallas parade has about 160 signatures as of this writing. The city of Austin was the reason SXSW did not move forward.
“We’re in constant contact with the event organizer,” Fleming says. “We’ve asked him to do some things in case we don’t cancel it.”
It is yet to be determined whether this would be a one-off cancellation or if Dallas might put a cap on attendance at city events. On Wednesday, the governor of Washington barred events of more than 250 people in Seattle, though that city has far more official cases than Dallas. Fleming says the city has taken a closer look at Austin’s move to limit gatherings to 2,500 people, but making a call on this Saturday is priority No. 1. Expect the final word some time this afternoon.