Local groups began canceling events this week even before public health officials announced the first confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in San Joaquin County.

Each year, the Tracy Tank Town Lions host a corned beef and cabbage dinner in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. About 200 people bought tickets to this year’s dinner, with proceeds to benefit Tracy Interfaith Ministries and scholarships for local students.

But the club decided Tuesday to call it off.

Jane Williford, the chairperson and club treasurer, said there were concerns about having a large gathering in an enclosed space, especially because many of the attendees are older. Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions are known to be more vulnerable to severe illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The eight-member club also didn’t want to risk having dozens of people decide not to attend Sunday night at the last minute, which would have left them with extra food and other supplies.

Even so, Williford said it wasn’t an easy decision.

“This is my baby,” she said. “This is my big event, and I take pride in coordination and execution and success. So we always have next year. So that’s the way I look at it.”

Members of the Tracy Tank Town Lions who sold tickets to the dinner will contact the ticket holders and refund the money they collected. The group is continuing with other events, including an open-air track meet today, but losing such a major fundraiser means it may have to award fewer scholarships and give less money to other local nonprofits this year.

“It is unfortunate because all proceeds go back to the community, one way or the other,” Williford said.

The Tracy Breakfast Lions also decided this week that the risks of hosting their annual Louis “Gee Gee” Galli Memorial Cioppino Dinner outweighed the benefits. The usual crowd at that event tends to be older as well.

The dinner, originally set for March 28, will not be rescheduled. All ticket sales will be refunded. People who planned to go should contact the individual Breakfast Lion who sold them their tickets.

The Sister City Association of Tracy is still hoping to send a group of Tracy eighth graders to Japan this summer, but their Japanese counterparts will not visit Tracy this month.

Association President Carol Minner said that Memuro, Tracy’s sister city on the northern island of Hokkaido, didn’t have any cases of COVID-19 yet. But the decision to call off the trip isn’t unprecedented. Another student exchange several years ago was canceled because of the SARS outbreak.

“We are crossing our fingers that the pandemic will improve by mid June so our students will be able to travel to Hokkaido,” Minner wrote. “In the meantime, we continue to celebrate 30 years of Memuro-Tracy sisterhood.”

The World Health Organization declared Wednesday that COVID-19, which had caused 4,292 deaths worldwide and had been confirmed in 114 countries on six continents, had reached pandemic status.

The cancellations accelerated as the week went on, particularly after the governor’s announcement of new public health recommendations late Wednesday. State public health officials have suggested putting off or canceling most nonessential gatherings at least through the end of March, including large events with more than 250 people and smaller events where people would be closer than 6 feet apart. For now, the recommendations do not apply to regular school classes, work and other essential activities.

In response to the new guidelines, Tracy City Center Association said Thursday afternoon that it was postponing Taps on Tenth. Presale tickets to the April 4 craft beer tasting and street party will be automatically refunded.

The popular downtown farmers market will return to 10th Street a month later than originally planned, on May 2 instead of April 4.

Some churches are also changing their schedules. Local wards of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suspended worship services and all other gatherings Thursday at the direction of church leaders in Salt Lake City.

Tracy Islamic Center has also suspended prayers, Sunday school, Quran school and other programs based on the state public health department's guidance.

All Tracy Branch Library activities will be canceled at least through the end of March.

And the city of Tracy announced a wide-ranging list of closures and cancellations starting today:

Contact Melanie Smith at msmith@tracypress.com or 830-4232.

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