Thursday on CNN, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said her city was given “no red flag” from Homeland Security, FBI or the CDC to cancel the Mardi Gras celebrations to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
She argued the agencies follow the “response of our national leader,” who Cantrell said was not taking it seriously.
Anchor Wolf Blitzer said, “Experts say, Mayor, that the Mardi Gras celebrations at the end of February in New Orleans may have actually played a role in accelerating the spread of this virus. More than a million people came to your beautiful city at the time. We are showing some video of that right now. At the time, Mayor, did you have any guidance from health experts on the potential risk of coronavirus?”
Cantrell answered, “Well, you know that the city of New Orleans as it relates to Mardi Gras, we plan Mardi Gras as a year-long effort. Around a part of our unified command is the federal government. Homeland Security, as well as the FBI. So in reaching out, meaning my health directors and public safety officials, every step of the way consulted with federal partners as well as the CDC in reference to COVID-19.”
She continued, “The federal government did not issue any red flags and, therefore, we moved forward with federal agents being a part of our unified command on the ground. And with the first time the city of New Orleans for Mardi Gras, we’re at a rating that was an improvement given to us by the federal government. So every step of the way, the federal government has been partners with us with Mardi Gras. No red flags were given. So absolutely, we moved forward.”
Blitzer said, “Yeah, you certainly did. I’ll ask you the same question I asked your governor yesterday with hindsight. We are all obviously a lot smarter with hindsight. Do you think Mardi Gras could or should have been closed this year?”
Cantrell said, “Well, if red flags were given at the federal level, leadership matters. So while I was the first in the state of Louisiana to stop social gatherings, I had to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. All hell broke loose when I did that. It was necessary, giving the data, allowing science to lead us. It does matter. We rely on the facts to make decisions for the people that we serve. Given no red flags, we moved forward. In hindsight, if we were given clear direction, we would not have had Mardi Gras, and I would have been the leader to cancel.”
Blitzer said, “I know, I guess reports are within a week or two after Mardi Gras, all of a sudden the cases started emerging in Louisiana. Obviously, that’s very disturbing.”
He asked, “You are saying no one from the federal government came to you and urged you to at least can sell or postpone Mardi Gras?”
Cantrell responded, “That’s absolutely correct. And not only that, it was backed up with the response of our national leader. When it’s not taken seriously at the federal level, it’s very difficult to transcend down to the local level in making these decisions. But when the experts told me that social gatherings would be an issue, I moved forward with canceling them, as well as St. Patrick’s Day parade, as well as our Super Sunday, where our Mardi Gras Indian’s parade, the suits that they’ve made, all year long, so this is something that not only concerns us, but it sets the tone for how leadership matters at every level of government in the United States of America, where mayors on the front line.”
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