“The guidelines have to be followed as it relates to Mardi Gras 2021,” Cantrell told reporters. The mayor’s office has put out a call for ideas on how to “safely celebrate the carnival season” without any parades. Submissions must comply with social distancing and sanitation standards and “prevent unstructured crowds of strangers,” the mayor’s office says on its website. The call for suggestions also notes that “a COVID-19 vaccine will not be readily available until after Mardi Gras.”
Canceling all of the city’s Mardi Gras parades, which typically begin in January and culminate on Fat Tuesday, could greatly reduce the number of revelers who visit New Orleans for the holiday. A typical Mardi Gras draws about 1 million visitors from around the world and has a direct economic benefit of about $144 million for the city, according to NOLA.com.
In 2020, Mardi Gras took place on Feb. 25, shortly before the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic and two weeks before Louisiana had its first known coronavirus case. Cantrell’s office has since then criticized the federal government’s response to the pandemic: “We were not given a warning or even told, ‘Look, you know what? Don’t have Mardi Gras.’ ” The city did, however, cancel St. Patrick’s Day celebrations once a wave of coronavirus infections became clear.
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, falls on Feb. 16 in 2021.
“Experts are predicting a ‘winter spike’ in cases this winter in December and January — right when our carnival calendars get rolling,” Cantrell’s office said in a statement. “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.”