PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - As the number of new COVID cases continues to rise, cities across the Gulf Coast are canceling holiday events to help minimize the spread of the virus.
On Wednesday, Christmas lights illuminated the sidewalks of downtown Pascagoula, where the streets are packed with hundreds of people each year for the city’s annual Downtown for the Holidays event.
After Mississippi reached a new record-high number of COVID cases on Wednesday, city leaders made the decision to cancel the Christmas event.
Other cities along the Coast also announced Wednesday that they would cancel holiday events, as well. They include:
- Pascagoula’s Downtown for the Holidays
- Diamondhead’s annual Christmas on the Town Green at City Hall
- Ocean Springs Christmas parade
- D’Iberville festivities, including movie night, Santa’s Workshop, Christmas parade and tree lighting
- Biloxi’s annual tree lighting on the Town Green, which will now be a virtual event
- Hurley’s Christmas parade
These cancellations come as COVID-19 cases continue to break daily records. It’s a risk that Pascagoula Mayor Dr. Steve Demetropoulous said is not worth taking right now.
“With more new infections come more hospitalizations and more deaths,” said Demetropoulos, who is a physician at Singing River Health Systems. “A public health advisory was sent out today to cancel all other social events where there’s large gatherings of people.”
At Jack’s by the Tracks, a popular downtown restaurant on Krebs Avenue, that means less customers and a boost in sales that was very much needed.
“Sales is the king, got to have sales to stay open, sales to pay the employees,” said owner Chris Batterman. “Well, no sales, start laying off employees. Then what?”
With fewer people out socializing, Jack’s by the Tracks has tried to attract customers with live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Batterman now worries that canceling holiday events will result in a loss of business.
“They say they’re not going to shut anything down again but you never know,” said Batterman. “As long as they keep telling people, ‘Don’t go see your family, don’t hangout in groups, don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t travel,’ well that’s essentially shutting everything down.”
As of Thursday morning, Gautier said it had no plans to cancel its annual Lights and Lagniappe on the Bayou event on Saturday but would implement extra precautions.
The fifth annual event - which includes the Christmas tree lighting, a drive-in movie, and a fireworks display - will all be viewable from each person’s vehicle.
Food truck vendors and restrooms will also be available, but attendees who are outside their vehicles must wear face masks and maintain social distancing at all times.
The Christmas tree lighting will take place at 5 p.m. at the old Singing River Mall property, followed by a special Christmas classic at 5:30 p.m. Movie sound will be available both over the radio on 94.7 FM and through an external sound system. Following the movie, a professional fireworks display will begin at 7:15 p.m.
Treat bags will be given to the first 250 children who arrive. For safety, treat bags will be placed on vehicle hoods.
Gautier officers will be on hand to help enforce mask and social distancing rules. Attendees are encouraged to remain in their vehicles, and they will not be allowed to set up lawn chairs for the movie or fireworks display.
“Even though our environment is quite different this year due to COVID-19, we hope our residents will come celebrate the holiday season with us,” City Manager Paula Yancey said. “We think the tree lighting, family-friendly Christmas movie and fireworks are a great way to come together while staying safe.”