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PAWTUCKET -- Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien said the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and 5K road race on Saturday will go forward because in his conversations with state health officials, they have not said that public events and gatherings should be canceled.

Rather, the emphasis is on awareness and taking precautions, he said. The city will distribute fliers to schools and senior centers outlining steps people should follow to try to avoid exposure to the virus, which he acknowledged has sparked anxiety in Pawtucket ever since it was announced that two people who were on a school trip to Europe from a Pawtucket private school contracted the respiratory illness, and a third is being tested.


“People are afraid, and it’s a normal reaction because it’s new to everybody,” he said. “They think everybody is going to die from it.” But that’s not necessarily true, he said. “It’s a little more serious than the flu.”

At midday Monday, Grebien joined members of the Pawtucket St. Patrick’s Day Committee and city workers who were painting a bright green shamrock on the street in front of City Hall.

So what does the mayor think of coronavirus coming to his city? “I mean, I wish it wasn’t here,” Grebien said. “But we have it, we have to deal with it.”

One way he is dealing with it is by not shaking hands. When a reporter reached out to do so, Grebien crooked his arm for a quick elbow bump.

He explained he was trying to follow health protocols to limit touching one day after state health officials announced that two people have tested positive for coronavirus after taking part in a European trip organized by Saint Raphael Academy, a Catholic high school in Pawtucket.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.