Experts believe last year's Mardi Gras celebrations likely contributed to Louisiana becoming an early coronavirus hotspot

By Rachel DeSantis
November 18, 2020 12:05 PM
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Mardi Gras
| Credit: Erika Goldring/Getty

Revelers in New Orleans are going to have to find a new, COVID-friendly way to celebrate Mardi Gras this year, as all parades have been canceled.

The office of Mayor LaToya Cantrell said this week that while Mardi Gras itself will not be canceled because it is a religious holiday, no parades of any kind will be permitted in 2021, as “large gatherings have proven to be super spreader events” of the novel coronavirus.

“With COVID-19 cases increasing around the country, we will have to modify how to observe carnival season to be safe for everyone,” the statement read. “We have done an amazing job flattening the curve — and hopefully it will stay that way through the winter — but we are surrounded by hot spots and we don’t know what the future holds in store for us.”

The statement added that experts predict a “winter spike” in cases in December and January, which is right when the carnival calendar gets going.

Cantrell’s office encouraged people to send their own modified, safe celebration ideas to mardigras@nola.gov by Dec. 5, and asked specifically for ideas that would prevent unstructured crowds of strangers from gathering.

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Though this will be the first time in 42 years that the streets of New Orleans don’t host a series of Mardi Gras parades leading up to Fat Tuesday, administration spokesperson Beau Tidwell said the move shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the city has a 150-person cap on outdoor gatherings, NOLA.com reported.

Louisiana was an early hotspot for the virus in the springtime, and a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April indicated that Mardi Gras was likely a major contributing factor.

“Louisiana, which experienced a temporarily high population density because of an influx of visitors during Mardi Gras celebrations in mid-February, has a higher cumulative incidence and greater increase in cumulative incidence than other states in the South,” the report said. “Mardi Gras, which concluded on February 25, occurred at a time when cancelling mass gatherings (e.g., festivals, conferences, and sporting events) was not yet common in the United States.”

While specific city guidelines for the coming months remain uncertain, New Orleans recently raised its COVID threat level to red, as cases and infection rates have been on the rise.

The city also said its positive test rate has nearly doubled in the last week, and 69 percent of its hospital beds are in use.

“Treat everyone you interact with as if they have COVID-19… because they may!” Cantrell wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

As of Wednesday morning, there have been more than 11.4 million reported cases and 248,462 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to The New York Times. In Louisiana, there have been at least 207,685 cases and 6,156 deaths.

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