CDC: No Guidance Given to Cancel Mardi Gras; Event Spurred COVID-19 Outbreak

Photo by Craig Stanfill

On April 10th, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report titled Geographic Differences in COVID-19 Cases, Deaths and Incidences. This report covered the time between February 12th and April 7th of 2020. They state that incidence has ranged widely across U.S. jurisdictions and that there is considerable variation in 7-day increases. They believe that geographic differences in cases and deaths most likely reflect epidemiological and population-related factors. These include the timing of the virus’s arrival, density of people, age of population and prevalence of underlying diseases, timing and extent of community action measures, testing accessibility, and public health reporting.

Two-thirds of all currently-reported COVID-19 cases come from only eight jurisdictions. Louisiana is currently fourth in number of cases at over 16,000. The length of time it took cases to double in the state was a mere 5.5 days. The report focuses on the fact that the virus was originally detected in February of 2020, the same month that Mardi Gras festivities occured. Due to significant increase in population density from visitors around the world staying in New Orleans, the CDC attributes high cumulative incidence and greater levels of increase than other southern states to this factor. Mardi Gras concluded on February 25th, a time they claim that the cancellation of mass gatherings was uncommon.

However, the CDC and government officials were aware of the potential spread of COVID-19 in the United States in early February as documented by this report, but failed to warn Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. Recommendations to practice social distancing and other preventative measures were not expressed publicly until March 12th, weeks after festivities. This was three days after Louisiana’s first virus case was detected. It was at this time that gatherings of more than 10 people were banned and shelter-in-place orders were given. Governor Edwards and Mayor Cantrell have received widespread criticism for failing to cancel Mardi Gras activities. Edwards did participate in a COVID-19 briefing regarding China’s pandemic on February 9th, but returned to Louisiana to describe outbreak risk in the states as low. Fault has been pointed to both local and national officials in this situation as a result.



CDC COVID-19 Response Team. “Geographic Differences in COVID-19 Cases, Deaths, and Incidence – United States, February 12–April 7, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Apr. 2020,

Vargas, Ramon Antonio. “CDC: Mardi Gras Quickened Spread of Coronavirus in Louisiana; Canceling Was Never Recommended.”, 11 Apr. 2020,

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