- The Washington Times
Tuesday, April 28, 2020

NEW ORLEANS —Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Tuesday floated the idea of canceling next year’s Mardi Gras because of coronavirus, as she fends off criticism that she acted too slowly to stop the spread of disease at this year parades.

The move would deliver a massive economic blow to New Orleans, where the annual Mardi Gras festival is an international celebration and the biggest annual event on the city’s calendar.

Health officials now believe the city’s 2020 parades, which culminated on Feb. 25, served as a virus breeding ground that contributed to Louisiana’s large COVID-19 outbreak that so far killed more than 1,700 people.

Under fire for not aggressively canceling the Mardi Gras festival, Ms. Cantrell noted the paucity of U.S. cases in late February and the absence of recommendations to do so from health care professionals. At one point, she attempted to blame President Trump for not calling off the famous party that attracts hundreds of thousands.

“It’s something that we have to think about,” Ms. Cantrell said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s something that we have to put on the table. It depends, again, on when we reopen the city and the steps we take to reopen.”

On Monday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards extended the state’s shelter-in-place orders, set to expire May 1, until May 15, although he allowed some relaxations on the fringes of the policy for restaurants.

Ms. Cantrell also said she would maintain stricter stay-at-home rules than the governor said he was necessary, including keeping a ban on outdoor seating at restaurants and prohibiting curbside retail sales in the city.

Ms. Cantrell’s mulling of pulling the plug on Mardi Gras 2021 stunned the city’s business community, which is already grumbling about the stay-at-home orders tanking the economy.

New Orleans has already seen Jazzfest and the NCAA Women’s Final Four canceled in April, two major events that would boost the bottom line of an economy built in part on tourism. Ms. Cantrell earlier said the city should not host any further events in 2020, and the Essence Festival, one of the most important annual cultural gatherings for African-Americans, was first postponed from July and since canceled.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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