Republican Congressman Clay Higgins, of Lafayette, won’t be attending the Washington Mardi Gras ball put on by Louisiana’s congressional delegation because COVID screening will be required of attendees.

“I oppose all such oppressive mandates, and I am stunned that the Mystick Krewe has apparently determined that free Americans are unable to be trusted with their own medical decisions,” Higgins wrote his colleagues on Monday.

The Mystick Krewe of Louisianians host the Jan. 27-29 event at the Washington Hilton Hotel. A Jan. 29 ball caps Washington Mardi Gras.

Now in its 73rd year, Washington Mardi Gras was begun by homesick congressional staffers stuck in the Nation's Capitol during Carnival season. It has since grown to include heavy hitters in Washington, a few presidents have attended, along with high-powered lobbyists, and Louisiana companies seeking economic development for the state. Usually, 2,000 to 3,000 people attend the various events.

Last year’s festivities were cancelled because of the COVID pandemic.

Higgins says he is against 2022 Washington Mardi Gras attendees having to show vaccination status for entry. “Not only do I oppose medical mandates in principle, but I have also taken action in Congress, having months ago introduced legislation that would criminalize these acts,” Higgins wrote.

He added that his staff would handle those from his 3rd Congressional District who attend. Higgins himself will not be going because he believes the COVID protocols are unconstitutional.

When asked to respond to Higgins, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, the Baton Rouge Republican chairing the event this year, said Wednesday in a prepared statement: “2022 Washington D.C. Mardi Gras is looking to be the best year ever and there is a record demand for tickets. We all agree that the only thing we want to catch is beads, and we’re looking forward to a great celebration.”

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“The Mardi Gras float exemplifies that archetype of Louisiana’s multicultural heritage,” Graves said in a press release earlier this year announcing the Washington Mardi Gras' 2022 motif. “The theme is ‘America’s Foreign Country’, but the implied tone is unity — especially after our collective experiences these past two years,” Graves said.

New Orleans native Joe Mustachia is creating the artwork for the theme of Louisiana as America’s foreign country.

Though Washington, D.C. already requires inoculation proof to enter bars, restaurants, concerts and other events, the Mystic Krewe also sought the advice of Ochsner Health System in Jefferson.

Ochsner pointed out that Washington Mardi Gras holds several functions, both official and unofficial, that each attract about 2,000 people from “different parts of the United States" over a three-to-five-day period.

Attendees are expected to provide proof of vaccination – either the card or LA Wallet – of two doses of Moderna or Pfizer or the single Johnson & Johnson does, upon check-in at their hotel. Unvaccinated people will need to show proof of a Negative PCR test no earlier than Jan. 24.

Ochsner recommended contracting experienced third parties to validate the credentials offered to ensure privacy concerns are followed.

“We also understand that some will not wish to choose either of the compliance options (either proof of vaccine OR negative test) needed to attend,” the Mystick Krewe said on the page of its website selling tickets.

Ticketholders have until Dec. 3 to opt out of the event and have their payments credited.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.