Photos: New Roads celebrates Mardi Gras _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- New Orleans' Latoya Beard, center, and her daughters Paris, 5, left, and Londyn, 3, ride and throw from the Krewe of Taylor float, during the Community Center of Pointe Coupee Parade.

For the first time in more than seven decades, Mardi Gras parades and events won't roll in Pointe Coupee this coming Carnival season due to a rise in new coronavirus across the parish and state.

After meeting with local organizers last week, parish officials said Monday the decision came amid concerns events wouldn’t allow for social distancing and worries the local healthcare system may not be unable to bear the stress of an infection surge.

“While the decision was one that was difficult and not taken lightly, as a group it was determined that the health and well-being of our citizens and visitors is top priority,” said Pointe Coupee Parish President Major Thibaut in a statement Monday.

It's the latest domino in a growing number of cancelations for south Louisiana cities and communities that have tapped the brakes on Carnival festivities due to public health concerns.

Last month, the Mayor of New Orleans announced that parades would not roll, citing similar concerns that large gatherings could become catalysts for viral spread.

Though no general decision has been made in East Baton Rouge Parish on whether parades will be allowed to roll in February, several krewes have postponed balls and other events.

Organizers for the Southdowns parade earlier this month also canceled their parade and ball, and organizers for the Spanish Town Parade have said any decision ultimately comes down to what state and local restrictions may be in place.

City-parish leaders have said they've been meeting with organizers to mull possible tweaks for 2021 while balancing public health.   

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies large gatherings that draw people from outside of a community as the highest risk activities for spreading the virus. The agency also notes the level of infections in a community amplifies those risks, and state and local leaders should make decisions on event sizes.

Mirroring state and nationwide infections, coronavirus cases in the Pointe Coupee Parish have risen more than 30% since the beginning of November, and on Monday reached nearly 1,500 total cases since March, according to state Health Department figures.

“I think it’s the right choice,” said Brandon Melancon, president of the New Roads Lion’s Club, which organizes the New Roads parade. “The last thing on earth we want to do is infect a bunch of people.”

The cancellation of parades in Pointe Coupee Parish marks the first time since festivities in New Roads were called off during World War II and will likely deal an economic blow to the city without visitors.

The parade also helps generate money to support local schools, bands and other community needs. Last year, the Lion’s Club was able to donate about $1,500 to three local schools in the parish while also paying for their parade expenses.

Amid uncertainty whether the event would still be held, the Lion’s Club plans to consider other ways to give back to the community, possibly with relief from the pandemic, Melancon said.


Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad