Rich Howells

Despite coronavirus concerns, Scranton St. Patrick’s Parade will not cancel 59th event on March 14

Despite coronavirus concerns, Scranton St. Patrick’s Parade will not cancel 59th event on March 14
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UPDATE: The Scranton St. Patrick’s Parade Association has since postponed the parade. Read the March 11 update here.

Following the news that Boston and even Ireland itself has canceled their St. Patrick’s Day parades due to the spread of coronavirus, the president of the Scranton St. Patrick’s Parade Association released a statement yesterday saying that the 59th annual parade will proceed as scheduled on Saturday, March 14.

The Parade Day mass will be held at St. Peter’s Cathedral at 10 a.m., and the Brian P. Kelly memorial two-mile footrace starts at 11 a.m. on Jefferson Avenue. The parade steps off in front of the church on Wyoming Avenue at 11:45 a.m. with high school and string bands, bagpipers, dancers, Irish groups, various floats, balloons, representatives of local businesses and organizations, and more marching on the green path painted throughout the streets of downtown Scranton, ending on North Washington Avenue in front of the reviewing stage.

Scranton boasts that it is the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country (for cities with a population over 50,000), with over 12,000 participants and about 100,000 spectators annually. Local bars are typically packed with thousands of partiers who start early early in the morning and drink long into the night.

The statement reads:

Albert O’Donnell, 2020 president of the Parade Association, would like to take this opportunity to assure everyone that the parade will indeed be held this Saturday, March 14 in downtown Scranton as scheduled. We are aware of the health concerns surrounding the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and we ask that all attendees take the proper precautions to insure a safe and enjoyable event.

The experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised that the best defense is to control personal transmission through good hygiene, proper hand-washing, and staying home when sick. If you are feeling ill this weekend, we’d ask that you stay at home and enjoy the live broadcast of Scranton’s parade on WYOU starting at noon.

For those attending the parade, we ask that you exercise simple precautions to protect yourselves and others while enjoying the festivities. Port-O-Potties with hand-washing stations will be available throughout the downtown, but we also encourage you to consider additional personal hygiene measures such as wearing gloves and using hand sanitizers.

For more information, we recommend consulting the CDC (www.cdc.gov) and World Health Organization (www.who.int) websites. There you will find resources that explain who is at greatest risk, how to stay healthy, symptoms to look for, and more.

According to the CDC, the outbreak of this respiratory disease was caused by a new “coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in more than 100 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named ‘SARS-CoV-2,’ and the disease it causes has been named ‘coronavirus disease 2019’ (abbreviated ‘COVID-19’).” By Jan. 30, 2020, it was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization, and the following day, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared it a public health emergency for the United States. So far, there are currently 647 cases in the United States that have caused a total of 25 deaths.

While Lackawanna County has not yet been affected by the coronavirus, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said there are 11 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – eight in Montgomery County and one reported case each in Delaware, Monroe, and Wayne counties. As a precaution, Friends of the Poor decided today to postpone their annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner at St. Mary’s Center in Scranton on March 17 and plan to reschedule for a later date.

When the first two cases were detected in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf held a press conference on March 6 and signed an emergency disaster declaration to increase support to state agencies responding to COVID-19.

Yesterday, Wolf announced that “all major health insurers providing comprehensive medical coverage in the commonwealth will cover medically appropriate COVID-19 diagnostic testing and associated treatment for consumers and have committed to waive any cost-sharing for the testing.”

“First and foremost, the commonwealth is prepared for and focused on mitigating COVID-19 in our state,” Wolf said. “Pennsylvania insurers proactively waiving costs associated with COVID-19 testing for consumers helps the commonwealth identify additional cases and gives us a better opportunity to increase our resources appropriately and better protect all Pennsylvanians. No Pennsylvanian should forego testing for any reason, if deemed medically necessary, including fear of what it might cost.”

Today, the governor added that the “Pennsylvania Insurance Department, in collaboration with the Department of Health, is submitting for publication a notice to the Pennsylvania Bulletin outlining proactive steps and recommendations for consumers and major health insurers to help mitigate the potential impact of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.”

“The commonwealth remains laser-focused on mitigation of COVID-19,” Wolf stated. “Posting these recommendations for health insurers further reinforces our commitment to making sure all Pennsylvanians have the health care they need during this uncertain time.”

To avoid contracting the virus, which causes flu-like symptoms, public health officials are encouraging people to regularly wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cover coughs and sneezes with their elbow, and avoid touching their face. Those who are showing symptoms like a fever, cough, and shortness of breath are encouraged to stay home and contact their doctor by phone to avoid exposing others.

Photo by Scott Kucharski Photography/NEPA Scene