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Waterloo police chief asks public not to attend Ezra Avenue St. Paddy’s Day party

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Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin has issued a public appeal asking people to steer clear of the annual St. Patrick’s Day street party on Ezra Avenue because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“I’m making a public appeal to anyone considering attending any large gathering, including the unsanctioned St. Patrick’s Day event, to reconsider,” he said in a statement. “Do not risk it. Stay home. Stay healthy. Stay safe.”

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On Saturday, police say that there were several large parties in the area of Ezra Avenue as some people chose to get the St. Paddy’s Day party started early.

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Those who gathered, ignored a round of pleas which were issued by Larkin, Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky and Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region’s acting medical officer of health, last week.

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“No one can predict the impact of COVID-19,” Jaworsky said. “That is why you must stay away from this uncontrolled gathering.”

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A year ago at the party’s peak, 33,000 people were in attendance, causing the closures of Ezra and Bricker avenues.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: all you need to know about COVID-19 in Waterloo Region

It cost more than $750,000 for police and emergency services to manage but more importantly, it also needlessly tied up paramedics and sent more than 70 people to the hospital.

Wang asked people to stay away as it would cause a significant drain on important resources which could be used elsewhere.

“The uncontrolled illegal party was already a significant risk to our residents, it is even more so now,” she said. “In this time when we need to ensure our healthcare and community resources are available to respond to serious needs in our community, I am asking people not to put their own health or those essential resources at risk.”

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Before COVID-19 emerged, local officials were looking to put an end to the party over the next few years but now they are now hoping it will end even earlier for different reasons.

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READ MORE: Archived: Live updates on coronavirus in Canada

Concerned about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk for Canadians is low.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

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