The mayor of coronavirus-plagued New Orleans took a shot at Trump, saying the city would have canceled Mardi Gras if the federal government had taken the outbreak seriously
- New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell defended her decision not to cancel the city's Mardi Gras festivities earlier this year, when the coronavirus had already been ravaging the US.
- She told CNN that if the outbreak had been taken seriously on the federal level at the time, they would have called off the event.
- "When it's not taken seriously on the federal level, it's very difficult to transcend down to the local level in making these decisions," Cantrell said, adding that the federal response "backed up by the response of our national leader."
- Louisiana has grown to be one of the virus' epicenters in the US, with Orleans Parish having the most per-capita cases in the country.
- As of Friday, 83 people died of COVID-19 in the state and there were more than 2,300 positive cases.
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The mayor of New Orleans appeared to blame President Donald Trump's administration for her decision not to cancel this year's Mardi Gras celebrations in the city, which led to a spike in coronavirus cases in Louisiana state and turned it into one of the virus' hot zones in the US.
Though New York state remains the epicenter of the outbreak, Orleans Parish currently has the most cases per capita in the entire country by a longshot, according to NOLA.com. As of Friday, there were more than 2,300 cases in the state of Louisiana, and 83 people had died.
In a Thursday interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Mayor LaToya Cantrell explained that the city's Mardi Gras planning happens year-round and in close coordination with the federal government. This year's Mardi Gras celebrations took place on February 25.
She was given "no red flags" about a public health threat at any point, so they decided to continue with business as usual.
"When it's not taken seriously on the federal level, it's very difficult to transcend down to the local level in making these decisions," Cantrell said. "But when the experts told me that social gatherings would be an issue, I moved forward with canceling them."
When Blitzer asked if it's correct to say that federal officials made no suggestion that the event should be canceled, Cantrell responded: "That's absolutely correct, and it was backed up by the response of our national leader."
"Allowing science to lead us, it does matter," Cantrell went on to say. "Leaders on the ground, 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 it."
Trump initially downplayed the coronavirus for weeks before declaring a national emergency on March 13. The World Health Organization declared the disease a pandemic on March 11.
A study from Imperial College London, which estimated that more than 2 million Americans would die if the country didn't institute social distancing measures, was reportedly the impetus for the administration's change in tone.
On March 16, Cantrell shut the cities' bars and ordered restaurants to close unless they could fulfill take-out orders.
Mardi Gras was 'the perfect storm' for the coronavirus spread
Louisiana, meanwhile, has become one of the coronavirus' epicenters in the US, and scientists have linked the outbreak there to Mardi Gras.
Dr. Rebekah Gee, who heads Louisiana State University's healthcare services division, called Mardi Gras "the perfect storm" for the spread of coronavirus, according to a Wednesday report from Reuters.
"New Orleans had its normal level of celebration, which involved people congregating in large crowds and some 1.4 million tourists," Gee said. "We shared drink cups. We shared each other's space in the crowds. People were in close contact catching beads. It is now clear that people also caught coronavirus."
Gary Wagner, a professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, also found that during in the first two weeks of the outbreak in state, it had the highest growth rate of the virus in the world.
"It seems the virus was there when crowds were around for Mardi Gras and it may have turned into a super-spreader event," Wagner told The Washington Post.
"You can see what's happening in Italy and Spain, and there is every reason to think the same events are going to happen here."
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"No red flags were given" by the federal government. - New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell on why the city moved forward with Mardi Gras celebrations. "If we were given clear direction we would not have had Mardi Gras and I would've been the leader to cancel it." pic.twitter.com/pAsEC5lMkz- The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) March 26, 2020
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