PASADENA, Calif. (CN) — Organizers of the Tournament of Roses Parade canceled the annual New Year’s Day festivities on Wednesday, the latest in a long line of high-profile events claimed by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
For the first time since World War II, there will be no colorful floats and marching bands rolling down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California on Jan. 1, 2021. Spectators from across the country descend on the city to view the floats and also to attend the annual college football Rose Bowl game. Planning for the game is still underway, but it’s unclear if the game will go on.
Parade organizers cited the Covid-19 pandemic and a recent uptick in infections across Los Angeles County, where Pasadena is located. On Tuesday, the County reported a record-breaking 4,200 new infections and 73 deaths over a 24-period.
On Wednesday, the numbers dropped — 44 new deaths and 2,758 new infections — but the situation in the county remains dire. Organizers feared the Rose Parade could turn into a super-spreader event in which large groups of people would be exposed to the virus.
“Obviously this is not what any of us wanted, and we held off on announcing until we were absolutely sure that safety restrictions would prevent us from continuing with planning for 132nd Rose Parade,” said Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association president Bob Miller in a statement.
Rose Parade organizers say it takes months to construct the intricate floats, prepare marching bands and equestrian teams and train thousands of volunteers. Any type of preparation would be nearly impossible under the current health orders in LA County.
Organizers commissioned a report from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, which found that even if physical distancing could be enforced and attendees wore masks, many would be in contact with others and people over age 60 would be at especially high risk of contracting the virus along the 5-mile parade route.
“While we are extremely disappointed that we are unable to host the parade, we believe that not doing so will prevent the spread of Covid-19, as well as protect the legacy of the Rose Parade for generations to come,” Tournament of Roses Association CEO David Eads said in a statement.
Large-scale gatherings like the Rose Parade have been postponed or canceled through 2020 as the pandemic rages on, including the Coachella Music Festival in Riverside County, the video game Electronic Entertainment Expo that was slated to run in June and San Diego Comic-Con scheduled for July. The 93rd Academy Awards, slated for February 2021, has been bumped to April.
With over 2,000 people hospitalized, LA County’s hospitalization rate is the highest it’s been since the pandemic took hold here in late February and early March. The virus is also spreading like wildfire among younger people, prompting LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer to warn Angelenos a stay-at-home order may be imminent.
“We can’t take anything off the table,” said Ferrer. “We have to do everything we can to protect the health care system.”
She added: “We are in an alarming and dangerous phase of this pandemic in LA County. What we do today impacts our lives in the weeks and months ahead.”