BUTTE – The Irish flag flew over the Montana Capitol on Tuesday, keeping alive one St. Patrick’s Day tradition even as celebrations and parades were canceled across the state because of the coronovirus outbreak.
With ample space between them, a nod to the precautions being taken to curb the virus’ spread, Gov. Steve Bullock and Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Jim McCormick read proclamations on the Capitol steps in Helena before raising the Irish flag.
But the festivities that usually take place afterward, including Irish dancing in the rotunda, were canceled.
St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated in Montana. But the mood was subdued on Tuesday with parades scratched and people sticking close to home, or else practicing social distancing guidelines that advise people to keep at least six feet away from one another.
In Butte, typically the epicenter of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Montana, officials announced Monday that they were ordering all bars, breweries, restaurants, casinos, distilleries and gyms to close for the next week in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Most of the state’s large cities issued similar orders.
Selina Pankovich, owner of the normally packed M&M Bar and Cafe in Butte, decided to voluntarily close before city and county health officials ordered the shutdown.
“I’ve lost sleep over the last couple of nights on whether to make that decision. It wasn’t easy,” Pankovich told The Montana Standard.
Ted Deshner closed down Party Palace and several other bars he owns on Monday morning.
“St. Patrick’s Day is our biggest day of the year, and we’re going to lose a lot,” Deshner said. “That loss is so big — it’s our brick and mortar during tax time. That money is how we pay our taxes to the county.”
Eight people in the state have tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus. Another Montana resident who hasn’t been in the state since November tested positive in Maryland.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with underlying health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
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