Local officials on Monday canceled the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Southie and industry executives halted a number of conventions headed for Boston, taking precautionary action amid rising concern about the coronavirus around the world.
The steps came as the number of people with confirmed cases of the virus in the state continued to rise at a steady clip, even as it remained small. On Monday, the state reported 41 total cases of the virus, up from 28 the day before. There were just eight as of Friday. There have been no confirmed deaths from the disease in Massachusetts.
The numbers included 32 cases that were linked to a company meeting of biotech giant Biogen in Boston late last month, the Department of Public Health said in an online posting. Another four cases were travel-related, while five cases were under investigation.
In four of the 41 cases, the infected person was hospitalized, the DPH said.
The risk of Covid-19 to the public in Massachusetts remains low at this time, state health officials said, but residents and public health officials are racing to prevent the virus from spreading. In Western Massachusetts, Clarksburg shut down its elementary school, its public library, its senior center, and its town hall because a local resident tested positive for the virus.
The number of cases in Berkshire County rose from 1 to 5 in the statistics released Monday. An undisclosed number of staff at Berkshire Medical Center were sent home under quarantine after they were exposed to a number of patients with Covid-19. In Norwood, eleven town officials are in quarantine because they went to a party with someone who has tested positive.
And in Boston, several large conventions, including a gathering for around 4,000 infectious disease specialists, have been canceled or postponed because of the virus.
“I think that it is going to be a major blow for the year, and also extend into 2021,” said David O’Donnell, spokesman for the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We know that this will impact the travel industry probably for a couple of years.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that the city, along with parade organizers, decided to cancel Sunday’s 119th St. Patrick’s Day Parade “out of an abundance of caution.” The parade draws hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of South Boston for a raucous celebration featuring bagpipes, elaborate floats, and marching bands.
Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, said Monday that it would be irresponsible of the city to allow the parade to happen. Large gatherings, he said, are “classic ways to spread viruses.”
In Ireland, all such parades have also been canceled.
City Councilor Michael Flaherty, a South Boston native, noted the parade has been canceled for inclement weather in years past.
“The town has survived,” he said. “And so have the Irish.”
Soon after Walsh’s announcement, state Senator Nick Collins, the South Boston Democrat and host of the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, said that, too, was being canceled.The breakfast was slated to broadcast live Sunday morning on NESN and WEEI and draw politicians from around the state, including Governor Charlie Baker ad Senator Edward Markey.
“While I am disappointed we won’t be able to celebrate with the annual St Patrick’s Day Breakfast this year, it is clear that this is the proper decision based on the advice of experts and public health officials,” Collins said in a statement.
In Rhode Island, Governor Gina Raimondo declared a state of emergency, saying that would allow the state access to more federal resources. Four people have been infected there.
In Massachusetts, Stratton Elementary School in Arlington, St. Mary’s Schools of Worcester, and the Anna Ware Jackson Elementary School and Beatrice H. Wood Elementary School in Plainville were closed on Monday.
The Boston Public Schools remained open. A spokeswoman said the school system, where bathrooms have lacked soap and hot water in the past, has quadrupled its soap order “in anticipation of increased use" and asked that all school leaders monitor their bathrooms a minimum of three times a day.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Amherst College became the first colleges in the state to move at least partially online, with MIT announcing that classes with more than 150 students will go online starting on Tuesday and Amherst saying courses will all be taught remotely, beginning on March 23 after spring break..
The New England Folk Festival, which says it draws 2,500 attendees to Acton from around the world and features more than 1,000 performers, said it was canceling its April 24-26 gathering, and the Brookline Symphony said it would cancel its 10th anniversary performance on Saturday and Sunday “in order to protect our musicians & audience.”
Some massive conferences have said their upcoming events will proceed as normal. The New England Cannabis Convention, with an estimated 21,000 attendees, has said it will not reschedule unless “forced to do so by the venue or local authorities.” Ace Comic Con Northeast, which will have about 32,000 attendees, including celebrities like Chris Evans and Tessa Thompson, has said its events will go on as scheduled.
Ace Universe said it was introducing practices to keep people healthy at the conference, including requiring fans to use hand sanitizer and banning handshakes and hugs during photo opportunities and autograph sessions.
A list of other conferences that have been canceled, made virtual, or postponed in Boston because of the coronavirus includes:
- The annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections will be held virtually instead, through Wednesday. The conference draws about 4,000 attendees each year, said Mark Aurigemma, a convention spokesman.
- The annual Directions conference, hosted by the International Data Corporation for about 1,000 analysts and scheduled to begin Tuesday, has been canceled. The conference said it will be live-streaming keynote addresses.
- The Cognitive Neuroscience Society 2020 conference, slated to run from Saturday to next Tuesday, will be held virtually. Organizers were expecting approximately 1,500 attendees, said Lisa M.P. Munoz, a spokeswoman for the society.
- Boston University’s “Power of Narrative” conference for journalists (which is co-sponsored by the Globe) scheduled for March 20-22, was postponed until next year.
- Harvard’s “WeCode” conference, for women engineers, was canceled.
Steve Annear, Danny McDonald, Liz Kowalczyk, Matt Stout, Bianca Vázquez Toness, Edward Fitzpatrick and Deirdre Fernandes of the Globe staff contributed to this report.