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'Not Canceled, Just Different': New Orleans Starts Planning For Mardi Gras 2021

Derek Bridges

“Not canceled, just different.”

That was the title of the PowerPoint presentation that Mayor LaToya Cantrell shared during the Mardi Gras Advisory Council meeting Nov. 5.

The meeting, conducted via Zoom, was held to discuss guidelines that the committee has made to ensure that New Orleans can celebrate Mardi Gras 2021, despite the threat that the COVID-19 pandemic poses.

“We had no idea what was coming our way as it pertains to COVID-19,” Cantrell said of Mardi Gras 2020.

The council enlisted Dr. Takeisha Davis, CEO of New Orleans East Hospital, and Dr. Eric Laborde, director of Ochsner Medical Center’s residency program and men’s health clinic, to create recommendations for the upcoming carnival.

They include revelers wearing masks that cover their noses and mouths, taking their temperature before heading to the parade, getting vaccinated if a vaccine is widely available, and limiting alcohol consumption.

Davis said drinking would inhibit people from following recommendations.

The council also recommended banning cooking from neutral grounds and banning the use of kegs, as they might draw crowds unnecessarily.

On floats, krewes are asked to keep at least 6 feet of distance between riders. Riders are asked not to taunt people on foot with throws, as that might encourage them to rush the float, breaking from social distancing.

“To ask law enforcement to enforce those things would be an impossible task,” co-chair of the advisory council James Reiss III said.

The mayor noted that the COVID-19 restrictions during Mardi Gras must be in alignment with Gov. John Bel Edwards’ restrictions for the state, adding again that the pandemic came as a surprise in the weeks following Mardi Gras 2020.

“They tried to blame us,” Cantrell said. “You know, like me, we did not know what was coming our way. What we know now is going to require us to do something different.”

The mayor said that the city spends more than $7 million on Mardi Gras. That spending begins in October and November as the city starts to lay preparations like cutting tree limbs. New Orleans earns more than $500 thousand in direct revenue and more than $8 million in indirect revenue from the celebration.

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.

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