Despite flu, Bay Area celebrations still on

April 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Ordinarily, this would be a big weekend for the Bay Area's Hispanic community. May Day events and Cinco De Mayo festivities usually attract tens of thousands of people, but that was before H1N1.

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In Mexico City, people are now avoiding crowds and when they are in one, they wear masks. Yet event planners hope to see San Francisco's Dolores Park filled with thousands of mask-free people on Saturday celebrating a Mexican holiday.

"We are going to provide sanitizer stations there onsite, but it should be a clean, safe day for everybody I think," said Coco Corona, an event coordinator.

Cinco De Mayo festival organizers point out the park isn't a confined space. In fact, it's not the flu that worries them most about this weekend - it is the parking. Annual May Day marches are also still going on as planned. Activists will rally all over the Bay Area Friday in support of immigration rights, despite the flu outbreak.

"The public health department is not calling for the banning of any public gatherings," said Richard Hobbs, an immigration rights activist.

Event planners may not be worried, but the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is. The CEO says businesses count on this big weekend.

"I am very worried that this crisis is going to keep people home and I really think they shouldn't stay home," said Richard Ventura, the CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Some businesses are so concerned about the messages out there, the chamber CEO now plans to address it in his electronic newsletter.

"We're really looking at how to communicate the response to the community, so we don't hurt our biz community," said Ventura.

The main message is one we've all heard before-- wash your hands and if you're sick, stay home. But if you're healthy, organizers around the Bay Area hope to see you out this weekend.

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