Parade during COVID; Mobile leaders preach ‘personal responsibility’ ahead of Mardi Gras event
Makayla Pitts is a recent high school graduate who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 but is young enough not to suffer serious health consequences if she contracts the virus.
The 18-year-old who graduated from BC Rain High School is not taking any chances, however. She is not going to the Mardi Gras Friday style parade in downtown Mobile because she is not vaccinated and because she anticipates that most people will not be wearing face coverings.
“COVID is still out there,” said Pitts, who says she needs to get the vaccine this summer before going to college in Atlanta this fall. “I am not vaccinated so I know I always have to wear my mask. But people don’t wear masks when they’re supposed to. “
Chances are she’s right, and most people who attend Friday’s parade in downtown Mobile are less masked. And if the statistics are any indication, most of the people in the parade will not be vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week said it was okay for those vaccinated to skip masks indoors or outdoors in crowds of all sizes. But unvaccinated people should avoid large gatherings, the CDC insists, like a parade.
So if unvaccinated people attend a large outdoor gathering – like Friday’s Mardi Gras-style parade, which begins at 6:30 p.m. from the Mobile Civic Center – they should wear a mask and maintain a safe social distance of 6 feet. others.
‘Act in consequence’
The latest mask recommendations come as coronavirus infection rates are low in Alabama and across the country as a growing number of Americans have fully immunized. But vaccination rates remain stubbornly low in Alabama compared to the rest of the country. Only 28% of all Alabama residents are fully vaccinated, placing the state only ahead of Mississippi for the country’s latest death.
The numbers for Mobile and Baldwin counties are even lower – only a quarter of people in each county are fully vaccinated, meaning they have received at least two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or one injection of the Johnson vaccine & Johnson.
In rural Alabama’s neighboring counties – Washington, Covington, Conecuh, Monroe and Escambia counties – vaccination statistics are even lower than that.
Public health officials focus on ‘personal responsibility’ as normalcy resumes in Alabama, highlighted by the only Mardi Gras-style parade that takes place in the city that bills itself as the ‘birthplace of Mardi Gras ”in the United States.
“COVID-19 has declined in Alabama, but the possibility of contracting the virus remains mostly in people who are not vaccinated,” said Dr. Karen Landers, deputy head of public health at the Department of Public Health of the United States. ‘Alabama. “People know their immunization status and need to act accordingly.”
In Mobile, county health officials are urging people to follow the latest CDC guidelines, which significantly relaxed mask-wearing requirements for those vaccinated last week, but maintained restrictions for those who are not. not.
“The CDC recently relaxed the recommendations for gatherings and we encourage the community to comply,” said Dr Bernard Eichold, Mobile County health official. “The city and Mardi Gras organizations must adhere to the guidelines, and each must take personal responsibility. As with a traditional Mardi Gras event, everyone should exercise personal safety and have a safe and wonderful event.
Landers said the state agency remained “very concerned” about the delay in overall immunization statistics. She said ADHD urges “eligible people of all ages to benefit” from the vaccination.
The state is still looking for ways to get more hits in the arms as concerns grow over the potential for vaccine supplies to be pulled from Alabama and located in other states with high demand. President Joe Biden earlier this month said he would reallocate vaccine supplies if needed, prompting Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to urge Alabamians to make immunization a “priority.” .
Landers noted that the state continues to partner with the Bruno Event Team, a sports management team, to host public service announcements, including one this month from the head football coach of the University of Alabama, Nick Saban, encouraging Alabamians to get vaccinated. Saban’s announcement gave fans a compelling reason to get the shot: full football stadiums in the fall.
But long before the college football season kicks off, Mobile officials will welcome a large crowd gathered in downtown Mobile for the Friday night parade. The typical Mardi Gras parade crowds can draw thousands to the downtown streets, with the Mardi Gras or Joe Cain Day celebrations drawing over 100,000 people.
No one knows exactly how many will attend a rare off-season Mardi Gras-style parade that will feature 29 floats from 21 mystical societies, seven marching bands, and representatives of the Joe Cain Marching Society, also known as the Walkers. Wayne Dean will also play Chef Slacabamarinico aboard the traditional coal wagon that leads the annual Joe Cain procession on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday.
The theme of the parade is “Celebrate Mardi Gras and Mobile, Alabama” and will feature emblematic floats from some of Mobile’s most established mystical societies.
“I think in terms of the parade itself, it’s definitely a traditional Mardi Gras parade that we are used to seeing on the streets of Mobile,” said Judi Gulledge, who coordinates the parade. “That being said, we don’t often get the opportunity to bring together so many mystical organizations to put on a parade.”
Gulledge said the parade will feature traditional Mobile Mardi Gras throws – beads, MoonPies and toys like stuffed animals, among others. All Mardi Gras parades during the traditional carnival season in late January and early February have been canceled this year due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that vaccinations had not yet been given to the public. The number of viruses and hospitalizations peaked in Alabama in early January, before starting to decline steadily.
Gulledge said runners in the floats are aware of the risks of participating in the parade if they are not vaccinated.
“He was covered in it from the start,” she said.
Gulledge added: “We hope that people who come to the parade will feel comfortable in a setting like a Mardi Gras parade and not put themselves or anyone else in danger. It’s a personal decision.
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson agrees.
“I feel pretty comfortable that those who are going to show up are going to understand that they have made a conscious decision to go and that they could be exposed (to COVID-19),” he said. .
Stimpson said he believes the city is “in good shape” to host the parade, noting infection rates are low in the county. Statistics from the Mobile County Health Department show that COVID-19 cases are still occurring in the county, with 35 reported on Monday. The record for the month in a single day came on Thursday, with 112 cases reported to the Department of Health.
Hospitalizations are low, although they are still happening. As of Monday, nine hospitalizations were reported in Mobile County. It’s a remarkable drop, however, from January, when hospitals reported a lack of available beds as the number of coronavirus cases skyrocketed after the Christmas holidays.
Stimpson said that while Mobile County had the “capacity to donate a lot more” vaccines, he said he believed those “at risk” for serious illnesses had been vaccinated. According to statistics, 61% of Mobile County residents over the age of 65 have been vaccinated.
“Immunization rates have gone down, but when you look at the reports we got from the Mobile County Health Department, we’re comfortable because you can feel where we are,” Stimpson said. “People, if they are at high risk, know they should not come. But it is their choice.
While Mobile is ready to welcome a large crowd for the downtown parade, the US Navy is not. The parade coincides with the commissioning on Saturday at 10 a.m. of the future USS Mobile (LCS 26). But the ceremony at the Port of Mobile is a private event with a limited audience due to health and public safety concerns related to the pandemic, according to a Navy press release. The event will be webcast live to the general public at https://allhands.navy.mil/Media/Live-Stream/.
Stimpson, however, said the city will have three large outdoor spaces at Cooper Riverside Park, next to the GulfQuest Maritime Museum, which will broadcast the commissioning ceremony.
The Friday evening parade will be followed by fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
“We are planning a big party,” he said. “A lot of people are ready to go out to celebrate.”
Related: ‘There is going to be a parade’: Mobile ready for first post-COVID Mardi Gras-type parade on Gulf of Mexico coast