Predominantly renowned for its massive parades catering to enormous crowds, Mardi Gras is a staple of New Orleans, a city whose tourism industry highly relies on the thousands of people that head to town each February/March to witness the celebration live. It should come as no surprise, then, that, given the societal changes that COVID-19 has ushered in, the event is set to look much different come 2021.
"Mardi Gras 2021 is not cancelled," said Beau Tidwell, the communications director for the City of New Orleans, during an official press conference this week. "[But] it's going to look different."
According to current guidelines, outdoor gatherings in New Orleans are limited to 150 people—a very small fraction of the crowds usually expected at the annual celebration.
"Mardi Gras [is] a season of traditions that we celebrate every year, a time that the community comes together in formal, fun, and often unexpected ways," the city's mayor, LaToya Cantrell, said in an official statement. "With COVID-19 cases increasing around the country, we will have to modify how to observe [Carnival] season. [...] We are surrounded by hot spots and we don't know what the future holds in store for us."
Cantrell's office is actually looking for the public's input to figure out ways to celebrate Mardi Gras safely. Specifically, the callout involves possible "themes" for next year's festivities and anything related to modified celebrations to account for overall safety. If you do have an idea in mind, you can send it to email@example.com before December 5 at 11:59pm local time.
Lest you find the city's decision to be a bit premature, may we remind you that a mere 8 months ago, when the pandemic first made its way to the United States, the local government was blamed for holding Mardi Gras in February given a presumptively resulting spike in COVID-19 cases in March.
Lesson learned: it's better to be safe than sorry.
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