New Orleans Shortens Mardi Gras Parades Over Lack of First Responders to Deal With Crowds

New Orleans will shorten upcoming Mardi Gras parade routes because of a lack of first responders, police officers, and medics to deal with crowds, officials said Tuesday.

"The big news and the best news is that Mardi Gras is returning to the city of New Orleans and to the world in 2022," said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

This year's Mardi Gras was canceled in February due to the COVID pandemic, and 2020 parade crowds were thought to be a large part of making New Orleans a hot spot earlier in the pandemic.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards also said Tuesday that he is extending Louisiana's public health emergency again, which he first implemented in March 2020. Since its first implementation, he has changed it several times. The latest shift enforces a few restrictions for businesses and does not include a statewide mask mandate.

However, Edwards said agencies led by his cabinet secretaries will again start enforcing a mask requirement for employees and visitors inside offices, like at Office of Motor Vehicles locations statewide.

"While vaccines and booster doses are the strongest tools we have in the fight against COVID, public health experts also agree that masks are an important way to slow the spread of the Omicron variant now. This means you should be masking indoors around people who aren't in your household," Edwards said in a statement.

Mardi Gras 2022, New Orleans, Changed Routes
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards also said that he is extending Louisiana’s public health emergency again. In this photo, the 2017 Krewe of Bacchus parade takes place along the traditional Uptown parade route on Feb. 26, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Erika Goldring/Getty Images

The face covering recommendation comes as infectious disease experts say Louisiana appears to be entering its fifth surge of the coronavirus outbreak, driven by the fast-spreading omicron variant of the virus. The number of new cases of COVID-19 has doubled over the past week, and hospitalizations of patients with the coronavirus illness are starting to grow again.

That hasn't derailed Mardi Gras plans in New Orleans, however.

Weeks of Carnival season parades lead up to Fat Tuesday, which will be on March 1. Members of each parade krewe pay for that group's parade.

Some krewes have not decided whether to roll, but none has given pandemic guidelines, mandates or restrictions as the reason for their uncertainty, Cantrell said.

"Clearly it's about the bottom line and the impacts COVID has had on our community and on our economy and particularly on their krewe members. ... They pay the price for us to enjoy our Mardi Gras," the mayor said.

She said krewes will have to follow city pandemic restrictions.

Cantrell noted that "if things go wrong in our city" she might have to change its plans for Carnival and Mardi Gras plans.

But she said she is confident the city can make it through the Omicron variant, flu season, and the holiday season.

With 80 percent of its residents fully vaccinated, New Orleans is a national leader, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mardi Gras 2022, New Orleans, Changed Routes
This year’s Mardi Gras was canceled in February due to the COVID pandemic and 2020 parade crowds were thought to be a large part of making New Orleans a hot spot earlier in the pandemic. In this photo, costumed revelers parade on bicycles through the Marigny during Mardi Gras on February 16, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Although traditional Mardi Gras activities were cancelled, many people took to the streets to celebrate. Erika Goldring/Getty Images