HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse announced during a news conference Tuesday that the annual St. Patrick’s Parade and Road Race will be canceled in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

He said he made the decision after meeting with the board of health and members of the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Committee. They said it was a very difficult decision but canceling the parade and road race is the best way to protect the community from the coronavirus.

“This wasn’t an easy decision to make and are looking forward to getting back next year,” Mayor Morse said. “And we wanted to thank the parade committee and their leadership for helping us come to the decision in the first place. This was a decision that wasn’t forced. We all agreed that public safety and public health were our number one priority.”

Mayor Morse, Holyoke Board of Health Director Sean Gonsalves, Holyoke Fire Chief Jeffery Przekopowski, Holyoke Police Chief Manny Febo, and 2020 St. Patrick’s Parade Committee President Marc Joyce all spoke at the news conference.

Morse added that it would be irresponsible to hold the parade and road race with hundreds of thousands of people coming into the city for the weekend and the lack of testing available locally. He said the slightest spread of the coronavirus because of either event could be devastating for both the community and public safety departments.

Several other cities, including Boston, Hartford, and New Haven, announced on Monday or Tuesday the cancellation of their planned St. Patrick’s Day parades, due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

STATEMENT from Mayor Alex Morse :

“I’ve called this press conference to announce that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Road Race will be canceled this year in an effort to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. This decision was made this morning following a meeting of the Mayor’s Emergency Management Advisory Council which includes the Police and Fire Chiefs, members of the Board of Health, and other public safety and public health professionals. Also in attendance was Marc Joyce, Parade Committee President, who was able to hear the first-hand concerns of our emergency management team. 

While the State’s Department of Public Health continues to advise that the current risk of Coronavirus remains low in the Commonwealth; We are also hearing from the CDC and local public health officials that the best course of action is to implement control measures that can lower and/or delay the epidemic peak. 

Control measures include enhanced sanitary education efforts, social distancing, work from home policies, and the postponement of large gatherings.

Lowering and/or delaying the epidemic peak is a critical tool that allows for enhanced preparation locally and statewide. In speaking with our emergency responders, I share their concerns regarding limited supplies of Personal Protective Equipment otherwise known as PPE, and I join them in calling on the state to do whatever is necessary to increase availability of supplies to our first responders. 

Over 400,000 people from all over the world come to Holyoke for the Road Race and Parade, and it would be irresponsible of us to carry on with these events as scheduled. 

Both the Police and Fire Chiefs have shared their concerns that even the slightest risk of community spread of the coronavirus at the parade could have devastating effects on long-term public safety in Holyoke as both HPD and HFD have all their employees on duty throughout the weekend. 

I would also like to make clear that our community’s most vulnerable populations are disproportionately impacted by the response to coronavirus and are less able to take the necessary precautions to prevent exposure. That would be even more the case throughout parade weekend. 

I want to thank the members of the Parade Committee, and all those who are involved in putting on this event. While many of us view this as a “parade weekend” the planning and engagement is a year-round effort. This decision was not made lightly, but ultimately all those involved agree that it is in the best interest of our public health and safety.” 

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse

STATEMENT: Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade Committee

“Following the directive of the City of Holyoke and public safety officials, the 69th annual Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade and 45th Holyoke St. Patrick’s Road Race will not be taking place the weekend of March 21-22. The fast and contagious spread of the coronavirus has become a public health and safety concern and though this was not an easy decision to make, the safety and well-being of Road Race and Parade spectators and participants is our priority.

We know that there are thousands of disappointed people, none more so than the 200+ Parade Committee members who have worked tirelessly to put on this tremendous showcase year after year and I thank them for all their hard work.

We are still deciding logistics of upcoming events and will share these updates when and as appropriate.

Thank you for your understanding.”

Marc Joyce, President, St. Patrick’s Committee of Holyoke, Inc.

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