What are the COVID-19 concerns ahead of the Mardi Gras crowds?

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 10:33 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2021 at 11:38 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Shortened parade routes don’t necessarily mean less people in the Carnival season crowds. With Omicron and Delta infecting the community, health leaders are on high alert.

“If you shorten the route by a third, do you think those people aren’t going to come to the parade or will a third of the crowd move?’ Mardi Gras Historian Arthur Hardy said. “You’re putting more people in a shorter space.”

However, we’ve come a very long way since the COVID outbreak after Carnival 2020 and so has the virus.

“We have time to get things ready, we potentially have time for this thing to sweep through our region maybe and be towards the tail end, but we also, most importantly, have enough time to protect everyone,” Health Educator Dr. Eric Griggs said.

Right now, Griggs is more concerned about the holidays with Omicron and Delta circulating, as well as the Flu RSV and Strep Throat. He says the most important things we can do, besides vaccination, are testing ourselves and masking.

“The Omicron virus is 70 times more contagious than Delta, which is nuts, but part of the reason why is because it’s inhabiting, it’s really more of an upper airway disease,” Griggs said.

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By and large, it is not causing severe illness. Ochsner said they’ve seen a six-fold increase in Omicron’s share of COVID infections in just one week, but those cases aren’t translating into hospitalizations, which is the biggest indicator Mayor Latoya Cantrell said the city is looking at when it comes to making the tough decisions.

“We cannot overstretch our public safety and those who are in the medical profession that we lean on every single day, so hospitalizations and the impact on public safety,” Cantrell said.

Griggs said the city’s efforts have really kept us ahead, with an over 80% vaccination rate. When it comes to the parades, he said many people stay outside all day anyway, which can really help.

“So, it’s more protecting yourself when you’re outside in a close crowd,” Griggs said. “I don’t know how enthusiastic I’m going to be about trying to grab a bead or compete for a bead with someone standing up on me. I just know, you just got to be smart about this.”

You can get yourself a free COVID test from the city at various firehouses over the next couple of days.

Cantrell said last week her office will consider reinstating the indoor mask mandate as Mardi Gras draws near.

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