By SHERI GASSAWAY
The St. Louis Labor Day Parade, an annual tradition celebrating working families and the area’s strong Labor roots, has been canceled for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All three Metro-East Labor Day parades have been canceled as well.
The St. Louis event, sponsored by the St. Louis Labor Council, was set to take place on Sept. 6 in downtown St. Louis. The growing concerns about the Delta variant of the virus and the stagnant vaccination rates in the area led to the decision.
COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED
“This situation could have been avoided, but much of our community continues to refuse to get vaccinated,” said Pat White, president of the council. “Vaccinations work. Over 95 percent of those in our hospitals are unvaccinated and over 99 percent of the deaths due to COVID are those who are unvaccinated.”
White, who looks forward to the event each year, expressed sadness and frustration about the cancellation, which he announced Aug. 5. The parade, which attracts dozens of Labor unions and their members, families and supporters, takes many months to plan and organize.
“I am encouraging those who have not been vaccinated against this pandemic – both union members and non-union members – to get their shot,” White said. “I am afraid that we are headed in the wrong direction and that if vaccination rates don’t increase we will see many more events in our community get canceled.
‘GET THE DAMN VACCINE’
“Together we can beat this. This isn’t about politics, it is about science and loving thy neighbor. Protect yourself, your loved ones and our community, and get the damn vaccine.”
COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing in nearly all states, fueled by the Delta variant, which is much more contagious than past versions of the virus. The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates.
In Missouri, where only 41.8 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, COVID cases rose by 21,226 in the seven-day CDC reporting period ending Aug. 5, making it the third-highest number of new cases statewide and the fifth-highest rate of infection per 100,000 residents – 345.9.
By comparison, in Illinois, which boasts a 59.6 percent vaccination rate, COVID cases rose by 14,693 in the seven-day CDC reporting period ending Aug. 5 with a rate of infection per 100,000 residents of 116.
However, in the eyes of Labor leaders in the Metro-East, those numbers aren’t high enough to justify taking a chance. All three Labor Day parades there have been canceled this year as well.
The Tri-City Labor Day parade in Granite City, set for Sept. 6, and the Union Family Parade in East Alton and Wood River, scheduled for Aug. 28, both sponsored by the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor, have been called off.
The Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council also has canceled its Sept.6 parade and picnic in Belleville.
“With the uptick in new cases surpassing those we got the first time around with COVID-19, we just couldn’t risk the safety of having that many people gathered together,” said B. Dean Webb, president of the Madison County Federation. “It’s a bummer because this is the second year the parades have been canceled because of the virus, and now we have a vaccine. We’re encouraging everyone to get their shot.”
TO GET THE VACCINE
For information on where to get the vaccine: