COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The city of Colorado Springs has postponed its 36th annual St. Patrick's Day parade that was set for Saturday.
According to VisitCOS.com, the parade has been canceled, but a few other festivities are still taking place as scheduled. A news release issued by the city later Thursday morning said the parade could take place in September.
The 5K race, the Leprechaun Runs, and 50K bike race will be rescheduled for weekend dates in September. Organizers said they are also considering a "Half-way to St. Patrick's Day" parade in September -- following a similar decision made by New York City.
During a news conference Thursday to officially announce the postponement, organizer John McDonnell said the decision was made during a group dinner Wednesday night.
"The NBA canceled (its season) right on TV in front of us," he said. "New York, Savannah and Chicago all (canceled their parades) and we thought we needed to follow suit."
Mayor John Suthers said the decision was made after much consideration by city leaders, parade organizers and health experts.
"I want to emphasize that this decision was made out of an abundance of caution and not because of an assessment of any heightened risk," he said.
Dr. Robin Johnson, medical director for El Paso County Public Health, said parades and other major outdoor events do not provide enough protection from the coronavirus.
"In a parade setting, there is difficulty in controlling the flow of people, maintaining social distancing, and accessing good respiratory hygiene --such as hand-washing," she said.
Around 20,000 spectators attend the parade.
Officials said because each major public event is different, they will carefully evaluate each one and determine what level of risk exists.
The next major event in the city starts on March 30, when the annual Space Symposium is scheduled at The Broadmoor's newly-expanded convention center.
"Those organizers are deciding on that event right now," Suthers said.
Calls for information to the symposium's hosts, The Broadmoor and the U.S. Space Foundation, were not returned Thursday.
An estimated 14,000 attend the symposium each year but some visitors from other countries are skipping the event because of a presidential travel ban that begins Friday.
Suthers admitted that many downtown businesses, especially restaurants, will lose money this weekend because of the absence of the parade.
"There is some federal assistance available from the Small Business Administration," he said. "And I expect that Congress will make more assistance available soon. I'm sorry if people are upset about this, but we're doing what's best to protect public health."
Suthers said how long the coronavirus crisis lasts, and how it's resolved, will determine whether the area's booming tourism industry will suffer.
"We're hoping that people who can't travel overseas will come to Colorado Springs instead," he said. "We're still marketing our tourism as usual. We're not going to shut the city down. There's no need for that."
The cancellation comes as many other event organizers across the country have announced cancellations or delays due to coronavirus concerns. Even the NBA announced a suspension of the remainder of its season due to concerns.
El Paso County has one presumptive positive case of COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis announced last week.