On Wednesday, organizers of the 2021 Rose Parade announced that they are canceling Pasadena, California’s iconic New Year’s Day bash — which is typically viewed by tens of millions of households each year — for the first time since World War II. The decision, according to a statement, was based on a safety study conducted by public health experts at the USC Keck School of Medicine who believe the cancellation will help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“That report showed that even with intensive effort to ensure compliance with public health measures such as six-foot distancing and face masks, it is likely that Rose Parade activities before, during and after the event would inevitably lead to large numbers of individuals (many of whom represent high risk groups for COVID-19 complications, such as retirees over age 60) in close proximity to each other, potentially, in some cases, without masks,” the statement reads. “This creates a high-risk environment for viral spread, including super-spreader events.”
The single-day event’s economic impact is huge. In 2019, 700,000 people from around the world attended the Rose Parade, and Enigma Research Corporation estimated that the money generated by such a flock was around $150 million. “We all know what the Rose Parade means to us here in Pasadena, as well as to New Year celebrations around the world,” Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek said. “To know that we won’t get to experience this great tradition on January 1st, 2021, is extremely disappointing. However, we also know that we must act responsibly to protect our community in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Rose Parade Executive Director/CEO David Eads added that the event requires months of preparation, further explaining that the construction of floats “typically requires thousands of volunteers to gather in ways that aren’t in compliance with safety recommendations.”
Organizers made the decision to cancel the 132nd Rose Parade “in accordance with Governor Newsom’s Phase IV re-opening schedule,” and the announcement comes just a few days after the state re-closed many California businesses. While the situation has worsened in California — the state just reported its largest number of new coronavirus infections in a single day — things seem to be improving in New York, where the still-scheduled Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade draws annual crowds of approximately 3.5 million people.
Given the size of parade crowds, it’s not yet clear if this cancellation is an indicator of what’s to come from gatherings of a smaller scale. The Grammys, for example, are still expected to take place on January 31st at Downtown L.A.’s Staples Center, which is about 12 miles away from Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium and holds a maximum of 20,000 people — although additional crowds of fans often form outside the venue.