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Patterson Park resident rallies Baltimore to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on rooftops while practicing social distancing

Baltimore residents gather on their rooftop decks to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with safe social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The speakers were booming, the conversations carried and the beers were popping as Southeast Baltimore residents celebrated St. Patrick’s Day — while practicing social distancing.

Brittany North sat in her Patterson Park rowhome working remotely Tuesday, as she scrolled through social media and saw fellow residents in the neighborhood Facebook page saying they wanted to celebrate the Irish holiday on their rooftop decks.

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Then the idea came to her.

Southeast Baltimore residents could re-create the scene of Italians standing on balconies and singing in union that surfaced in a viral video last week.

“I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t we do that Baltimore-style on rooftops, balconies and stoops?’” North said.

Patterson Park-area residents Leslie Labrecque, right, and her husband, Bob Dewey, gather on their home's rooftop deck to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with safe social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. A neighborhood social media message by Brittany North encouraged residents to gather on their decks or stoops.
Patterson Park-area residents Leslie Labrecque, right, and her husband, Bob Dewey, gather on their home's rooftop deck to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with safe social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. A neighborhood social media message by Brittany North encouraged residents to gather on their decks or stoops. (Kenneth K. Lam)

The coronavirus has swept across the world with China being the hardest-hit country, followed by Italy. The pandemic reached Maryland on March 5 and for almost two weeks the state has been under a state of emergency.

North, an almost five-year resident of Patterson Park, made the Facebook event, shared it in the neighborhood group, and dozens of comments started to roll in. Everyone wanted to join.

The 32-year-old urged people to head to their rooftop decks or stoops between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. And at 8 p.m. she asked people to play “Dance My Pain Away” by Baltimore rapper Rod Lee.

“It’s a nice way to connect without everyone, without compromising each other,” she said. “And a nice break from the fear and negativity.”

Tuesday saw a 54% increase in coronavirus cases, according to the Maryland Department of Health. At least 57 people have confirmed COVID-19 infections in the state.

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Patterson Park-area residents Rebecca Torchia, left, and housemate Haylee Goodenough have a drink on their rooftop deck.
Patterson Park-area residents Rebecca Torchia, left, and housemate Haylee Goodenough have a drink on their rooftop deck. (Kenneth K. Lam)

Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday shut down bars and restaurants except for takeout and prohibited any gathering or event of 50 or more people, per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. The federal government is now recommending that groups be limited to no more than 10 people.

The governor also pleaded with Marylanders to practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

It’s difficult to measure the success of the event, North said, but she kept getting messages with photos and videos of people enjoying the cool temperatures and one another’s company.

The unit block of South Decker Street was packed with people on their stoops. But in the unit block of North Curley Street, attendance was more sparse, Rebecca Torchia said.

Even though it was just Torchia and her three other roommates participating in the area, the 24-year-old said they still enjoyed the event.

Patterson Park-area resident Brittany North encouraged residents, via a neighborhood social media message, to gather on their rooftop decks to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with safe social distancing. “It’s a nice way to connect without everyone, without compromising each other,” she said. “And a nice break from the fear and negativity.”
Patterson Park-area resident Brittany North encouraged residents, via a neighborhood social media message, to gather on their rooftop decks to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with safe social distancing. “It’s a nice way to connect without everyone, without compromising each other,” she said. “And a nice break from the fear and negativity.” (Kenneth K. Lam)

“It feels good to be a part of something,” Torchia said. “I’ve also been cooped up for more than a week now, too.”

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Sara Turner, of the 200 block of N. Lakewood Ave., said she is immunocompromised and has mostly been staying inside. But this gave her something to look forward to.

“Our stoops are far enough away for social distancing, but close enough to still chat and have human contact,” the 50-year-old said. “I love that everyone is coming together to do whatever they can to help and support each other.”

Turner, who’s lived in the neighborhood for six years, said anything to put a smile on someone’s face is the easiest and best thing to do right now.

Even though Southeast Baltimore’s rooftops weren’t as flooded as Italy’s balconies, North said she’s heard only positive things. Many people told her they want to make this a weekly tradition until the social distancing ban has been lifted and the coronavirus drifts to the back of everyone’s mind.

“This is a real virus and it’s a real and scary thing,” she said. “It’s affecting the entire world and I just think it’s a really good idea to give people a break and have some fun.”

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