Mardi Gras 2021 canceled due to COVID-19, NOLA mayor says

Due to COVID-19, The Big Easy has made it clear any Mardi Gras celebrations there next year will look very different.

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It’s official: Mardi Gras 2021 has been canceled. 

Well, at least the parades on Bourbon Street in New Orleans will be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Members of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club parade down St. Charles Avenue during Mardi Gras celebrations in February in New Orleans. Due to COVID-19, The Big Easy has made it clear that any festivities within its borders next year will look very different. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Mardi Gras is a religious holiday and therefore, can not actually be canceled, but The Big Easy has made it clear that any celebration within its borders next year will look very different. 

“I want to be very clear. Mardi Gras 2021 is not canceled. It is going to look different. The mayor has been very consistent about saying that at every stage,” said Beau Tidwell, communications director for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, during a Tuesday press conference.

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Next year’s Fat Tuesday observation falls on Feb. 16, 2021. 

On its Mardi Gras 2021 FAQ page, Cantrell has responded to pre-determined questions about the city’s signature event. 

“Parades of any kind will not be permitted this year because large gatherings have proven to be super spreader events of the COVID-19 virus,” according to the page.

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“There’s no way that that’s responsible given what we know about the pandemic right now,” Tidwell said.

“So, while we certainly want to move forward and find ways that we can celebrate, and we can mark this occasion, we have to do it safely,” he continued. “We have … 10 more deaths in the last two weeks. The positivity rate doubled in the last week.”

In addition to the cancellation of parades, any balls hosted by Mardi Gras krewes must adhere to strict attendance restrictions and be by invitation-only. 

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While Bourbon Street and the Frenchman Street entertainment districts will still be open, they too will be subject to local and state guidelines, including social distancing and mask-wearing. The city website also notes the hours and capacity amounts in these districts are subject to change. 

The city of New Orleans may also grant limited special events approvals for residents to host private parties, but that process is subject to application. 

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A report from the CDC in April of 2020 conceded that Mardi Gras may have accelerated the spread of the virus in New Orleans, although the agency did not advise the cancellation of large gatherings until weeks after the famed event. 

More than 6,000 people in New Orleans have died from COVID-19. It is unknown how many others may have been infected via travel there or could have died as a result of visiting. 

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