by C.C. Campbell-Rock

Tuesday is Mardi Gras.  The greatest free show on earth isn’t cancelled but it will be very different, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

 On Mardi Gras day, all bars on Bourbon and Frenchmen Streets will be closed. And parades, second lines, and massive partying are prohibited, indoors or outdoors.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell could have canceled the entire 2021 Carnival Season and Mardi Gras. Given the super spreader event that Mardi Gras 2020 turned out to be, no one should have been surprised if she did. But she didn’t. There are virtual events with entertainment – Floats in the Oaks, House of Floats and other ways to celebrate Fat Tuesday.

In the wake of last year’s Mardi Gras, Cantrell’s administration spent eight months handling active outbreaks and dealing with severely ill citizens. Still, hundreds died from the coronavirus. Simultaneously, the city set up a massive testing regime and advocated for enough vaccines to cover all of the city’s communities.

Her work has paid dividends. The number of new cases and deaths are declining. The spread is slowing, and the positivity rate is falling.  But Orleans Parish is still at risk for a major outbreak due to Mardi Gras.

So, we should applaud Mayor Cantrell for having the courage to make the tough, albeit unpopular, decision to tamp down the festivities.  

The mayor has saved us from ourselves…from choosing between risking our lives to party on Mardi Gras or celebrating safely in small numbers.

Here’s a fun fact. Mardi Gras has been canceled a few times.  In 1919, the Spanish Flu cancelled Mardi Gras. In 1979, the NOPD went on strike a few days before Mardi Gras. The Police Union claimed to be out due to a contract dispute with the mayor and some resented the fact that the mayor hired a police chief from outside of the city.

NOPD officers on strike in 1979

Others believed that the predominately white police department had an issue with having to take orders from Mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial, the city’s first black mayor.

Today, the same underlying resentment is emanating from Mayor Cantrell’s most ardent critics, who use every opportunity to attack her. Business owners, good government groups, and others have pounced on her when she has tried to level the playing field.

Haters gonna hate

They attacked her when she went to Baton Rouge to petition the Republican-led state legislature for a fair share of the tourism dollars that are spent in New Orleans; when she put a millage on the ballot to re-allocate excessive library funds for much needed childcare grants, and now they are attacking her for restricting Mardi Gras.

Did they not learn anything from Mardi Gras 2020, the super-spreader event that sickened more than 27,000 New Orleanians and killed 745? Are her critics not willing to make sacrifices to save their fellow New Orleanians?

Mardi Gras could lead to a major spike in the spread of the coronavirus, which increases the likelihood that black people, who are disproportionately affected, will die.

Cantrell’s  critics’ callous call for fewer restrictions is a call for more deaths in our community. Thus far, of 745 who have died from the virus, 545 were Black New Orleanians.

It’s interesting that her critics, many of whom are white, speak the loudest when money is involved. It’s as if they think putting Cantrell on blast will make her do as they choose.  But she’s not the one.

We know that the Carnival Season and Mardi Gras infuses at least $1 billion into the economy and that the proceeds are 2% of the city’s GDP.

Economic impact

The odds are that the city will suffer a loss of revenue. However, the mayor knows that some tourists and locals will be in the French Quarter partying the day after Mardi Gras, and other places, if the weather permits.

The economic impact is expected to be diminished but Cantrell can take comfort in the fact that she did the right thing. She tried to save lives.

As for her critics, we understand where they are coming from….We get it.

People are suffering financially! Businesses are hanging by a thread, some may even have to shut down or file bankruptcy. Rents and mortgages are unpaid. And keeping food on the table is daunting. Not to mention, everyone has COVID fatigue.

Mardi Gras masks

New Orleans is no different than any other American city that is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s true that we, New Orleanians love Mardi Gras and all its traditions. This is our culture.

We will find a way to celebrate our favorite holiday. In our communities, uptown and downtown, we roll with the flow. We will eat, drink, and be merry, safely. We’ll have an indoor picnic. Or we’ll second line in our houses to  “carnival music,” made by our music legends. We’ll save our Mardi Gras Indian costumes and Second-line regalia for another time.

To Mayor Cantrell, we offer our sincerest thanks. To her critics, we say, lighten up or suck it up. It’s Carnival Time in the Crescent City.

  1. Thank you, CC. I agree with your assessment and join you in thanking Mayor Cantrell for having the courage to make the tough decision to close bars and gathering in the quarter down this Mardi Gras. I empathize with the business owners who are taking another punch in the gut from this, but it was a necessary move to save lives. We’re all sick and tired of this pandemic, but someone has to look out for the greater good. Mayor Cantrell is doing just that!

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