Joy And Unease As Rose Parade Returns

The bloom is back,’ event organizers say, but surging cases are cause for concern.

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New Year’s Day 2021 started with a pang of sadness for Aida Bueno.

Her beloved Rose Parade had been canceled for the first time since World War II. And for the first time in more than a decade, she didn’t get to spend a few joyous days decorating floats with volunteers from across the country, her “family from everywhere.”

“I didn’t know what to do with myself,” said Bueno, a nurse from Pico Rivera.

The Rose Parade will return Saturday. And this week, Bueno was back in her element: flitting around a Pasadena warehouse with other decorators, slicing leaves,gluing dried fruit and seeds, blasting Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from her phone and belting out the chorus.

“Coming back here every year is [about] trying to make people happy,” Bueno said. “To give people something to smile about. Especially nowadays, when there’s not a lot to smile about.”

For many, the return of the Rose Parade will be seen as a cheerful respite from two painful pandemic years. But the parade — and its enormous crowd from across the country — is coming at a fraught time. Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are soaring again because of the highly contagious Omicron variant. Disruptions abound.

Photo courtesy of Dave Proffer, flickr

Hundreds of flights have been canceled this week because of airline staffing shortages tied to the virus. The Holiday Bowl in San Diego was canceled five hours before kickoff on Tuesday because of COVID-19 issues with the UCLA Bruins. A performance of “Hamilton”at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre was scrapped on Christmas Eve — with the audience already seated — because of breakthrough infections backstage.

The famed New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City’s Times Square has been scaled back, with fewer revelers allowed. The New Year’s Eve event in Los Angeles’ Grand Park will be streamed, with no live audience.

But the Rose Parade will go on, with organizers expecting hundreds of thousands of spectators along Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard.

“All the planning that we have done has positioned us well to be able to host the Rose Parade in a safe and healthy way,” said David Eads, executive director of the Tournament of Roses.

“The overall sense of renewal and rebirth of the Rose Parade is forefront with everybody. We’ve come up with a couple of terms for it: ‘One parade, two years in the making,’ and ‘The bloom is back.’ ”

The Tournament of Roses is requiring the 6,000-plus parade participants, including people on floats, marching bands and equestrians, to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event.

As of Monday, just over 90% had given proof of vaccination, Eads said.

Parade spectators ages 12 and up in ticketed areas, like grandstands, will also have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours. Ticket holders ages 18 and up will have to provide photo identification, and all attendees ages 2 and up in those areas will be required to wear a mask.

Along the rest of the 5.5-mile route, where people can just walk up and watch, vaccination and negative test results will not be checked.

“What we’re asking is they take personal responsibility,” staying in family pods, social distancing as much as possible, wearing masks and being vaccinated and boosted, Eads said.

There is some comfort, Eads said, in both the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl game between the Utah Utes and Ohio State Buckeyes — which also will require vaccination or a negative test from attendees — being outdoor events, which health officials say are safer than indoor gatherings.

The parade comes as California is battling a significant new spike in infections and hospitalizations. California recorded 4,378 coronavirus-positive patients in hospitals Monday. The number of Californians hospitalized with COVID-19 has swelled by nearly 25% since Dec. 20, according to data compiled by The Times.

About 67% of all Californians are fully vaccinated. In Pasadena, which has its own health department, 89% of residents ages 5 and up are fully vaccinated.

Eads said the Tournament of Roses partnered with public health specialists at USC Keck School of Medicine this year and last year to conduct reports on the feasibility of hosting the parade.

This year, the report concluded that vaccinations would be “a game changer,” Eads said, but that planning should be flexible in case new variants emerged.

Last year, before vaccines were available, the parade was called off in July and replaced with a television special.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

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