New Orleans announced on Tuesday that there would be no parades during the February 2021 Mardi Gras celebrations, bowing down to the near certainty that the coronavirus pandemic will remain a public health crisis throughout. ‘winter.
The festive, side-by-side crowds, which typically line the city streets for weeks on end each February, would in this case have the potential to become mass-market events, going well beyond the current limit of 250 people in the city. city during rallies. The city has solicited ideas on how to celebrate safely under the current coronavirus restrictions, but the typically joyous and colorful affairs that draw seas of tourists will not continue as usual.
“We know what we celebrate next year won’t look like another year,” Beau Tidwell, a city spokesperson, said at a press conference.
City officials were careful to point out that Mardi Gras, a religious holiday in the Roman Catholic Church, was not canceled; there were probably still smaller events planned. But they would hardly resemble the enthusiastic bacchanalia long associated with the city.
Dan Kelly, president of the Krewe of Endymion, a social club that hosts a parade, told nola.com the restrictions had been “a total shock.”
Organizing the parades, he said, “means a lot to the city, and it means a lot to the people of New Orleans.”
Access to Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street, two hubs of the party all day long until late at night, would remain open, but would be subject to capacity restrictions and regardless of the Covid-19 guidelines applicable at the time. .
New Orleans currently requires the wearing of masks in public and the maintenance of six feet of social distancing. Like most states, Louisiana is currently struggling with a third wave of the virus, with cases rising sharply and hospital admissions on the rise. The state had more than 207,000 reported cases and 6,000 deaths as of Wednesday.
The city’s move came as families struggled over how to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, as suggestions from experts to avoid large gatherings clashed with holiday traditions. Experts fear family reunions will overwhelm the spread of the virus, especially if family members are traveling for vacation.
Bourbon Street became a hotspot for the virus earlier this year, and experts say Mardi Gras may have accelerated the spread. Even though the packed celebrations took place weeks before the region’s first documented case, Dr. F. Brobson Lutz Jr., former New Orleans health director and infectious disease specialist, said in March that the Mardi Gras celebrations were “a perfect incubator. at the perfect time.
In a deeply optimistic world, it is possible that an effective nation-wide effort to thwart the spread of the virus could take hold before February. But most experts say precautions will likely still be needed well into 2021, and Mr Tidwell said that while officials would be happy to ease restrictions, they predicted the likelihood that this might not be possible.
“It doesn’t seem reasonable to expect a sea change drastically by mid-February,” he said.