NYC's St. Patrick's Day Parade postponed for 1st time in history over coronavirus fears

The St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City was postponed for the first time in its history Wednesday amid growing concerns over the fast-spreading coronavirus.

The 258-year-old event, which draws about 250,000 marchers and as many as 2 million spectators, has taken place rain or shine each year since before the Revolutionary War.

It's not clear if the parade will be rescheduled considering it's usually held March 17, the day the religious holiday is observed.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered the bad news to the parade-loving public.

"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," Cuomo said in a statement.

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Bagpipers and others march up Fifth Avenue during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City, March 16, 2019. (Associated Press)​​​​

Bagpipers and others march up Fifth Avenue during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City, March 16, 2019. (Associated Press)​​​​

"While I know the parade organizers did not make this decision lightly, public health experts agree that one of the most effective ways to contain the spread of the virus is to limit large gatherings and close contacts," he added.

The decision came just hours after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was holding off on canceling the parade until after he spoke with the parade committee. Cuomo and de Blasio, both Democrats, have feuded in the past.

“We’re talking it through with the parade committee,” de Blasio said. "We have to really think about this one because it’s a beloved event, an important event."

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Cuomo and event organizers agreed they had "an obligation to take action and contain the spread of the virus."

He added the risk to New Yorkers still "remains low" even with a rising amount of cases in the city and state. Ten new cases were announced in New York City on Wednesday, bringing the total to 52 so far.

In addition, the city of New Rochelle, just 26 miles north of New York City, has established a "containment zone" because that city and surrounding Westchester County have seen more than 100 cases of coronavirus in what may be the largest cluster in the U.S.

Large gatherings have been temporarily banned in New Rochelle in an effort to contain the spread of the virus there.

"We thank Governor Cuomo for his decisive leadership in this challenging time. We look forward to celebrating the 259th St. Patrick's Day Parade with the entire city of New York at a later date," said Sean Lane, Parade Committee chairman

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The parade route follows Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street and usually lasts more than five hours.

Boston and Dublin, Ireland, have also canceled their parades due to the virus.