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New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has banned parades in the 2021 Mardi Gras celebration coming in February because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the city is trying to salvage its biggest annual event and won’t call it “cancelled.”

“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,”Cantrell said on the city’s website. A message posted Tuesday on the city’s Twitter account showed an illustration with the slogan, “Mardi Gras is different, not cancelled.”

Mardi Gras is more than just king cakes and beads, it is a religious holiday. a season of traditions that we celebrate every year, a time that the community comes together in formal, fun, and often unexpected ways. pic.twitter.com/uI6rX06R5B

It’s unclear how Mardi Gras, which is much like Brazil’s Carnival festivals, will play out without its centerpiece: the iconic Fat Tuesday parades that help attract an estimated 1.4 million visitors annually. Dozens of parades are normally held in Orleans Parish alone, including carnival processions held in the days leading up to Mardi Gras, which falls on February 16 this year.

Cantrell requested ideas for ways to safely celebrate this year’s Mardi Gras. The priority is to avoid creating “unstructured crowds of strangers,” which are just the sort of gatherings that normally occur in the chaotic celebrations each year.

2021 Mardi Gras ideas? #TellUsAll submissions must be sent to mardigras@nola.gov by 11:59pm on December 5th. 🎭 More info: https://t.co/7q2pdJpFZQWith COVID-19 spreading, we need to modify carnival season so it’s safe for everyone. We can do this together! #MardiGras2021pic.twitter.com/OmDvpzCl2D

New Orleans previously only cancelled parades during the Civil War, civil unrest in 1875, World War I, World War II and a 1979 police strike. “With Covid-19 spreading, we need to modify carnival season so it’s safe for everyone,” the city said.

“That won’t go over well,” a Twitter account under the name Last American Vagabond said of the parade ban. “Get ready to see some protest parades in New Orleans.”

That won’t go over well. Get ready to see some protest parades in New Orleans. https://t.co/pWD3g4aOSa

Some observers reacted bitterly, including one who tweeted: “What’s next Destroya? You gonna cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas, too? We will have to have turkey and open presents over FaceTime.” Others suggested that the decision could have waited. “Cantrell couldn’t come up with any ideas after making an extreme decision too early,” one commenter said.

What’s next Destroya? You gonna cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas too. We will have to have turkey and open presents over FaceTime.

Cantrell couldn’t come up with any ideas after making an extreme decision too early? pic.twitter.com/FjkOWLQkYd

But some Twitter users praised the move, saying they don’t believe the parade can be done safely amid rising cases of Covid-19. At least one went so far as to say Cantrell should cancel Mardi Gras altogether to avoid putting people at risk: “It’s ridiculous to host in a pandemic. Push back, mayor.”

I ride in a Krewe and would rather NOT parade in 2021. You cannot space riders 6’ apart on floats.

Cancel Mardi Gras please don’t put our people at risk because Them big time lawyer’s and judges wanna have a good time…Its Ridiculous to host in a Pandemic..Push back Mayor

Social clubs, called Krewes, will still be allowed to host their Mardi Gras balls, but they will be required to adhere to social-distancing guidelines, and the events will be invitation-only, meaning members of the public can’t attend, according to the city’s website. Krewes normally band together to build parade floats.

The Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street entertainment districts in the city’s French Quarter will be open, but the partying will be constrained by Covid-19 restrictions, including restaurant and bar capacity limits, limitations to business hours, mandated mask-wearing and a six-foot distancing requirement. House parties will be subject to similar restrictions.

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