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New Orleans to close bars next Friday through Mardi Gras, monitor busy streets

There’s major concern from city and state leaders that large crowds will be super spreaders for COVID-19 and COVID variants.

NEW ORLEANS — The City of New Orleans will close all bars completely starting next Friday, Feb. 12 through Mardi Gras and will monitor crowds on Bourbon, Frenchmen and Decatur Streets in an effort to prevent a super-spreader event during the COVID pandemic.

The move comes after large crowds were spotted on Bourbon Street and in the French Quarter last weekend and in anticipation of crowds increasing in size leading up to Mardi Gras Day, Feb. 16. 

Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced those rules at a news conference Friday. 

Cantrell said that the new restrictions include:

- All bars closed from Friday, Feb. 12 through Mardi Gras Day

- No liquor sales in French Quarter at all Feb. 12 through Mardi Gras Day

- Bourbon, Decatur and Frenchmen streets will not have loitering allowed and no vehicles from 7 pm until 3 am

- The Claiborne underpass will be fenced off to prevent the large crowds that normally gather at the site on Mardi Gras Day.

- Enhanced police presence on Bourbon Street and throughout the city

- Street vendors and street performers not allowed

"When it comes to our health and our people," said Cantrell, "I'd rather be accused of doing too much than too little."

Gov. John Bel Edwards said Louisiana State Troopers, fire marshals, and agents from the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control will be in New Orleans focused on enforcing COVID-19 restrictions. Edwards is also sending a warning to tourists and locals looking to let the good times roll.

"There's a good chance that someone travels in and brings the virus. And if they don't, there's a good chance when they go home they're going to take it home with them," Edwards said.

Friday's announcement comes after videos of huge crowds on Bourbon Street went viral over the weekend. Cantrell and other city and state leaders say they're concerned about the potential for Mardi Gras to be a "super spreader" event for the coronavirus.

"What we saw on Bourbon Street last weekend - totally unacceptable," said Cantrell. 

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WWL-TV reporter Mike McDaniel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.