Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards reiterated Sunday that last month’s Mardi Gras celebrations weren’t cancelled or downsized amid concerns about the coronavirus, because “not one person” at the federal level directed the state to take such action — but he said it’s now time to move forward.
The Democrat doubled down on remarks he made last week defending his decision — or lack thereof — not to cancel February 25 Mardi Gras events. He conceded that the raucous partying scene “likely” contributed to the spread of the virus in the New Orleans area, where health experts now say the next coronavirus “hot spot” is emerging. Just one day prior to the city’s Mardi Gras festivities, the president said “the coronavirus is very much under control” before going on to tout the day’s stock market gains.
Speaking on several Sunday morning TV news programs, Bel Edwards tried to re-focus the conversation on the state’s need for respirators and federal government supplies rather than rehashing the past. He warned Louisiana’s largest city will run out of ventilators by April 4 and hospital beds by April 10.
But Bel Edwards did confirm Sunday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and all other federal government agencies — made no mention of scaling back Mardi Gras celebrations over coronavirus concerns.
“You didn’t cancel it. Do you regret not doing so?” CBS News’ Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan asked Bel Edwards on Sunday. “I know you said the CDC didn’t issue guidelines saying to do so is that what you were waiting for? For the federal government, as a state, what to do?”
“There was not one person at the federal level, not at the CDC or otherwise, who recommended canceling anything. Not just Mardi Gras, but I don’t think anywhere across the country … But right now that’s not our focus. We can’t do anything about what happened yesterday.”
Just one day before Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, Trump tweeted: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Speaking with ABC News’ This Week host Martha Raddatz, the governor noted that the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 emerged just 13 days after the Mardi Gras celebrations attended by tens of thousands of people. Raddatz asked the governor if he should have personally given a stay-at-home order sooner. Bel Edwards previously noted that 56 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes have positive cases of the coronavirus.
“I believe it’s likely that Mardi Gras contributed to the seeding of the virus in and around New Orleans — a million-and-one-half people just 13 days before the first confirmed case here on March 9. But that’s looking back…going forward…I’m sure a study will be conducted later.
“There was never any hint to anyone — to me or the mayor of New Orleans — that there should be any consideration to downsizing or canceling Mardi Gras. I think if you look back there were about 15 cases in the country, all of which were tied directly or indirectly to travel. and there was never any hint of this. If you go back, you’ll see the federal government was saying things were ‘well under control.'”
A 33-year-old member of Bell Edwards’ staff, April Dunn, died Saturday night as a result of complications from COVID-19. Speaking with The Advocate, Bel Edwards said the senior coordinator in the office of disability affairs was a “tireless advocate for people with disabilities.”