MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — With most of its Mardi Gras events canceled for the first time since World War II because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mobile is adding festive displays and blocking off downtown streets on Fat Tuesday so the season isn't a complete bust.
Colorful light structures are being added at Mardi Gras Park, where crowds normally gather as parades roll through the area, and groups that usually stage the parades and accompanying balls are being allowed to display floats — minus revelers tossing beads, Moon Pies, stuffed toys and other trinkets.
On the final day of the pre-Lenten celebration, downtown streets will be closed to traffic to allow people more room to spread out and avoid the kind of close contact that can help spread COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
“It’s hard to imagine Mobile, Alabama, on Mardi Gras Day not having something for Mardi Gras,” said City Council member Gina Gregory. “I think it’s great to bring in some of the emblem floats and keep it alive and well.”
Still, health officials are worried about bars, which are planning downtown Mardi Gras functions, becoming “super spreader” venues.
“Mixing in the bar could be the perfect storm,” Dr. Ellen Eaton, who specializes in infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told al.com. “We are seeing new (virus) strains that are more contagious than prior strains. If you add a new strain to a bar or an indoor event, it would be the right opportunity for having it spread to more attendees."
The county health officer, Dr. Bernard Eichold, said visitors should leave if public health safety guidelines aren't being followed.
Mardi Gras celebrations were last canceled on a widespread basis in Mobile in the 1940s during World War II. New Orleans also is canceling most of its Mardi Gras celebration, which is far larger than ones on the Alabama coast.