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After a summer of packed concerts, New Orleans Jazz Fest was canceled amid rising covid hospitalizations

Crowds wait for Van Morrison to perform on the Acura Stage during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in New Orleans on April 28, 2019. (Sophia Germer/AP)

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will be canceled for the second consecutive year, as the number of coronavirus hospitalizations have spiked to record levels in Louisiana.

The event organizers announced Sunday that the annual event, which usually takes place in the spring but had been delayed until October this year, has been nixed for this year.

“In the meantime, we urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials, so that we can all soon experience together the joy that is Jazz Fest,” the event organizers said in a statement.

It is one of the first major festivals scheduled for this fall to be canceled. The decision follows several big concerts and gatherings held in recent weeks, despite the troubling rise of coronavirus cases. Next year’s festival is slated to run from April 29 to May 8.

Louisiana has seen a striking increase in coronavirus infections. Last week, the state set four consecutive records for covid-19 hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic, with more than 2,400 people admitted with the virus as of Friday, WWL reported. The state has recorded 573,903 cases and 11,210 deaths since Feb. 29, 2020. Only 37.6 percent of people in Louisiana are fully vaccinated, according to a Washington Post analysis.

The recent resurgence of infections and hospitalizations, especially among the unvaccinated, has raised concerns that crowded celebrations may become superspreader events. Even outdoor gatherings, known to be much safer than indoor events, have given public health experts pause in recent weeks as the highly infectious delta variant spreads.

Thousands of maskless people squeezed together for outdoor concerts during the massive, four-day Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago from July 29 to Aug. 1. Attendees were required to show either a negative coronavirus test or proof of vaccination, but health officials raised concerns after images of the tightly packed crowds emerged last week. Officials in Illinois are urging attendees to get tested for the coronavirus to identify any cases that may have stemmed from the event.

“This will help us shut down any local outbreaks before they get started,” the Tazewell County Health Department said in a Facebook post last week.

Similarly, in the days after 100,000 fans surrounded the basketball stadium in Milwaukee to celebrate the Bucks’ first NBA championship in 50 years, nearly 500 people in the crowd tested positive for the coronavirus.

Milwaukee Bucks fans celebrated the NBA championship outside. 500 still got covid, officials say.

The proliferation of new coronavirus variants has renewed mask mandates in many parts of the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance late last month for people in coronavirus hot spots to resume wearing face coverings when indoors.

Despite the increased risks from new variants, breakthrough infections among the vaccinated and outbreaks among the unvaccinated, major events have largely gone on as planned.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota’s Black Hills is still expected to draw 700,000 bikers this week — even after the disastrous results of last year’s event. When hundreds of thousands shed masks and ignored social distancing guidelines last summer, more than 600 coronavirus cases were linked to the motorcycle rally, although contact tracers struggled to keep track of the outbreak as people returned to their home states.