Just when we were getting used to the dispiriting cancellation of big New Orleans events rescheduled for the tail end of 2020 — Jazz Fest, originally set for last weekend and this, among them — comes word from Mayor LaToya Cantrell that the 2021 Carnival season could be the next civic casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
Asked in a Washington Post video interview whether the city will be ready to host Mardi Gras, Cantrell said that "it's something that we have to think about. It's something that we have put on the table…It will give me great pause right now before I commit to saying we are moving forward with Mardi Gras 2021."
She has good reason to approach the situation with extreme caution. In hindsight, it’s clear that the novel coronavirus may have arrived and certainly spread during this year’s Carnival celebration. With visitors from all over partying alongside locals for days on end, the prospect of imposing safety measures next time is daunting.
Still, while we didn’t know then what we know now, we also don’t know now what we’ll know in a few months. Scientists have already learned a tremendous amount about fighting the virus, and will certainly keep learning. There’s still time.
The day after the mayor’s remarks, the National Health Institute’s Dr. Anthony Fauci announced encouraging results in tests of coronavirus patients treated with remdesivir.
Carnival is an industry that goes on year-round: Krewes design their parades and collect dues and plan their balls. The uncertainty should not pause any of that commitment and creativity.
We hope to gather once more in the streets, catch beads, and enjoy the season’s camaraderie come February. The mayor and her administration need to keep working on ways to make that safely happen.