Critics of Milton Mardi Gras parade say it could be ‘superspreader event’

Digital Mojo

MILTON, Fla. (WKRG) — While municipalities across the Gulf Coast have canceled their Mardi Gras parades, one is scheduled in Milton this upcoming Saturday.

The Emerald Coast Krewe of Airship Pirates applied for and was granted a permit by the Milton City Council to put on one of the few Mardi Gras parades still planned for Northwest Florida.

With this decision from the council, some residents in Milton and Santa Rosa County are voicing their concerns.

“It has the propensity to be a superspreader event,” said resident Pam Mitchell.

Mitchell reached out to WKRG News 5 after what officials are calling a spike in COVID-19 cases in Milton.

“We have 80 houses in the city limits with at least one COVID-19 case,” said Heather Lindsay, mayor of Milton. “That is more than we had last summer when we weren’t having any gatherings.”

Now Mitchell is calling on the city council to cancel the parade or at least cancel the parade’s scheduled after-party at Jernigan’s Landing near Milton’s Riverwalk.

“There’s just an overwhelming concern that the people who choose to come to the parade and expose themselves will not stay in one area,” Mitchell said. “The exposure will go out into the community.”

While officials are hearing the concerns of local residents, they told WKRG News 5 Monday they were taking all the proper precautions to keep the public safe.

City Manager Randy Jorgenson said the city is prepared to hand out 20,000 masks on Saturday.

City staff working during the parade will be wearing N-95 masks and wear gloves. Hand sanitizer will also be available throughout the parade route and at the after-party.

“(Approving the parade) was a decision made to stimulate economic activity,” Jorgenson said. “I think it might achieve that objective.” 

Jeff Snow, a Milton councilman who voted in support of the parade, said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not put any active restrictions on local governments approving events, which was a main factor in approving the event.

He said he understands residents’ concerns but noted going to the parade is a personal choice.

“Take the precautions that we ask. Mask and social distance,” he said. “If someone feels the need to stay home, then they should. We’re all responsible for our own care.” 

While the city government says it has taken all the proper precautions, Mitchell said it is not good enough.

“The city council has the responsibility to look after the citizens’ health and safety — more so than they do their recreation,” she said.

Lindsay said she could call a special council meeting to discuss the future of the parade, but that has yet to be decided.

The parade starts in Milton at 5 p.m. For more information, click here.

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