Risky Mardi Gras May Have Been Canceled With Federal Guidance, Says Official

Louisiana got no advice, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said, even though the Trump administration knew of the dangers by the time Mardi Gras started.

Louisiana likely would have called off New Orleans’ packed Mardi Gras in February amid the coronavirus crisis if the state had gotten guidance from the federal government, state Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R) said Sunday.

The state was “without any guidance at all from the federal government, we now know,” noted CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. He asked Nungesser if the state had “received some guidelines, would that have saved lives? You might have canceled Mardi Gras?”

“Well, absolutely,” Nungesser responded. “We surely ... had we had knowledge of what was to come, we would have taken a different look at it.”

He added: ”It’s hard to look back now and say we should have canceled Mardi Gras. But with 840 people, deaths, in the last 30 days here in Louisiana, surely some of those people probably wouldn’t have been infected had we taken action sooner.”

Blitzer pointed out a weekend New York Times article reporting that by mid-February “several of the president’s top health experts were saying, ’You’ve got to do something, you’ve got to shut things down, otherwise, that one, that two [cases] ... that’s going to escalate.”

“We didn’t have that information,” Nungesser said. “Surely, I know our governor didn’t. And had we known what was to come, we probably would have taken other action.”

Nungesser admitted that the money Mardi Gras brings to businesses is seductive. “You know, it’s difficult juggling — tourism is a big industry in Louisiana,” he noted. “But we sure have to put the lives of the citizens first and the health of their safety.”

Tourism has plummeted in the wake of Louisiana’s outbreak.

A report Friday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that Mardi Gras likely accelerated the spread of COVID-19, yet federal officials never recommended canceling it or any other large gatherings at the time. The CDC did not advise calling off such events until two weeks after the start of Mardi Gras, which ran from Feb. 16 to Feb. 25.

Louisiana has since emerged as one of the nation’s COVID-19 hotspots, reporting 20,595 confirmed cases and 840 dead as of Sunday, with most cases in and around New Orleans. The state’s toll leads Southern states, noted the CDC report.

One storied Mardi Gras group, the Krewe of Zulu, has been devastated by COVID-19, with at least 20 members infected and four dead of coronavirus complications, The Associated Press reported.

A University of Washington study last month found that states with Republican governors or those with a majority Republican electorate have enacted social distancing measures an average of 2.7 days later than blue states.

Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, is a Democrat, but his state is red; 58% of the electorate voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

Those social distancing delays are “likely to produce significant ongoing harm to public health,” the researchers said.

The study attributed the delays — which can translate into a significant number of lives in a pandemic — to “cues” to party members from President Donald Trump’s lack of urgency about COVID-19 and failure to embrace social distancing.

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