New Orleans closes bars and bans to-go drinks for Mardi Gras weekend

The city of New Orleans on Friday announced new COVID-19 restrictions to prevent crowds ahead of this year’s Mardi Gras celebration. From February 12 to February 16, the city will close all bars, ban the sale of to-go drinks, and halt all large gatherings, among other measures. 

“We’re doing this in response to the health crisis that we are in. There are consequences of not taking action, the costs are simply too high,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement. “There are three new COVID strains out there which will have an impact on our city.”

“We have to mitigate this virus the best way we can. It requires all of us doing the right thing,” she added. 

Under the new restrictions, foot traffic to popular Mardi Gras spots, including Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street, will be restricted after 7 p.m. The Clairborne underpass will be entirely fenced off. 

The news comes after city officials saw increasing crowds leading up to New Orleans’ most famous holiday. While the city canceled all official parades in 2020, Cantrell said gatherings have continued to increase leading up to the event, calling the crowds on Bourbon Street last weekend were “unacceptable.”

“To those that are upset about these restrictions, know that when it comes to the health of our people, I’d rather be accused of doing too much than not enough,” Cantrell tweeted Friday. 

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards will send agents from several law enforcement divisions to help enforce the new COVID-19 restrictions on Mardi Gras weekend.

“A shame on us if Mardi Gras 2021 looks anything like Mardi Gras 2020 with the number of people with COVID in our state and across the country this year,” Edwards added in a press conference Thursday. 

Since last year, Louisiana has reported more than 400,000 coronavirus cases. 9,076 have died.There are currently 863 new cases in New Orleans, where 70% of hospitals are at capacity. 

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