Brightly colored dragons writhed through the street Saturday as people came out in droves to attend the annual Argyle Lunar New Year Parade in Uptown.
Although some parade-goers said they were monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in China where they have relatives, none were concerned enough about reports of the virus in Chicago to want to stay home and miss celebrating the Year of the Rat with food, firecrackers and family.
The event attracted a few hundred people from Chicago’s Chinese, Vietnamese and Southeast Asian communities.
The Lunar New Year, a 10-day celebration that began Jan. 25, is one of the busiest travel periods among Chinese people, who often return home to visit friends and family.
But the coronavirus, a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China that has started spreading to the U.S., has complicated holiday plans.
Jason Che, a 25-year-old who lives in the South Loop, attended the parade with three friends. All four were wearing medical masks as they stood along Argyle Street cheering the parade.
“The coronavirus is more of a concern for people like me who have friends and family in China, where people are very scared,” Chen said. “My mom keeps texting me to make sure I’m wearing my face mask.”
Chen said stores have quickly sold out of the face masks, and it took him a week to find somewhere that carried them.
“I have a box of 50 face masks that I’ve just been passing out to my friends and loved ones,” Chen said. “It doesn’t hurt to be cautious.”
Having moved to Chicago about a year ago, Chen was said he was excited to connect with the local Chinese community in the city and celebrate the New Year.
Illinois health officials have confirmed two cases of the coronavirus — a local woman in her 60s who returned to the city Jan. 13 from central China, and her husband, who did not leave the country but was diagnosed with the virus this week, marking the first case of person-to-person transmission reported in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not currently recommend the use of face masks among the general public to prevent coronavirus, according to the health protection agency’s website.
“While limited person-to-person spread among close contacts has been detected, this virus is not currently spreading in the community in the United States,” the CDC states.
Jonathan Ma marched in the parade with his family, many of whom moved to the U.S. from Vietnam and live near the parade route in the Uptown neighborhood. This year’s celebration was “bigger than ever,” he said.
“It’s just a fun family event where we celebrate all our cultures,” Ma said. “This is a very diverse community that grows and grows each year.”