New Orleans to Hold Traditional Mardi Gras Festival Despite Rapid Moving COVID Spikes

New Orleans is set to hold a traditional Mardi Gras festival in 2022, even as COVID-19 cases surge nationwide and health experts raise concern about the Omicron variant.

The festival will return March 1 after being forced to cancel in 2021 due to the pandemic, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced during a press conference on Tuesday.

"The big news and the best news is that Mardi Gras is returning to the City of New Orleans and the world in 2022," she said. "It is happening."

She added: "It is definitely the focus of balance—public safety being that top priority, but making sure that we can balance our economy, balance our culture in ways that we celebrate here in New Orleans."

Cantrell pointed to vaccines, masks and expanded testing as ways to limit the virus' spread at the festival. But if cases rise in New Orleans over the next few months, she said she would "have to make decisions as I've made in the past," adding she is confident in the city's ability to make it through the variant.

"We want to make sure that we're doing everything possible to stay the course. That means our economy open, businesses flourishing and also speaks to the return of Mardi Gras 2022," she said.

Some changes are being made to the parade routes, she said. However, no Krewes—the social groups that organize parades and balls for the festival—would be asked to move from their traditional day, but that every parade would make some accommodations. "No one is being singled out," Cantrell said.

Louisiana—like the rest of the country—has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

On Monday, the state reported a seven-day average of 1,009 new cases per day on Monday, up from an average of 421 one month earlier, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, the United States had a seven-day average of 143,164 new cases per day, up from 91,194 a month earlier, according to data from The New York Times.

The surge in cases and concerns surrounding the Omicron variant prompted the cancellation of other events across the country. In New York, some Broadway shows were canceled last week over the virus while Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to announce a decision on the city's New Years' Eve celebration. Some schools including Harvard University in the U.S. have also announced plans to go remote at the start of the spring semester.

Health experts warn that cases may continue to rise in the coming weeks as the Omicron variant—which is believed to be more transmissible—takes hold in the U.S. Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden warned on Sunday that the U.S. could potentially see record-breaking COVID deaths.

Mardi Gras Returning in 2022
Mardi Gras is set to return in 2022, according to the city's mayor. Here, people are seen celebrating the festival in 2019. Sean Gardner/Getty Images