Savannah cancels St. Patrick's Day festivities again

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — For the second straight year, the city of Savannah is canceling its traditional St. Patrick's Day events because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Van Johnson announced Tuesday during his first weekly update of 2021 that he spoke with health officials and city leaders before making the decision to cancel this year's celebrations, WTOC-TV reported.

“I hoped and prayed that our situation might improve," Johnson said. "But I think that with what we witnessed this holiday season, we put the health of our city and our citizens at risk. Therefore, I am recommending that we continue our moratorium on event permits issued by the city through the end of March 2021. This will, unfortunately, mean two straight years without our World famous St. Patrick’s Day celebration.”

After making the announcement, the mayor cited behavior by residents and visitors over the holidays as an example of why they do not feel confident in allowing the parade to happen.

“If we could not manage this during a holiday weekend, how could we manage St. Patrick’s Day?” Johnson asked.

Chatham County has reported 13,308 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 230 deaths and nearly 1,070 people hospitalized as a result of the virus, the state Department of Health reported Tuesday.

The mayor said he believes things may have been different regarding the parade if there had been a statewide mask mandate.

“Frankly speaking, without a statewide mask mandate, and with conflicting rules from our state that don’t require universal, science-driven precautions to be mandated by private businesses, we cannot do St. Patrick’s Day safely in its current form. And I again call on our governor to mandate masks throughout the state,” Johnson said.

The March 17 holiday and its parade of pipe bands, classic cars decorated with shamrocks and gaudy floats is by far the city’s most popular holiday, drawing thousands annually. Tuesday's decision will have a direct impact on the city's hospitality industry and tourism, with many local businesses anticipating St. Patrick’s Day as the biggest and busiest event of the year.

In a statement on the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee’s Facebook page, the committee said it was hopeful the event would be held this year.

“Over the past several months we have continued to work with the City of Savannah during the permitting process and now we need to be united in doing what is best for our community. Since the first Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1824, there have been extraordinary times when we had to cancel the parade, and this is unfortunately one of those times. Going forward, we commit to keep you aware of our future plans and we appreciate the community’s understanding and support,” said the parade's general chairman, John Fogarty.