New Orleans Jazz Fest canceled for 2021 amid surging COVID-19 cases

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has been canceled for the second year in a row due to rising COVID-19 cases and record hospitalizations in the state, organizers said.

Louisiana is facing the worst virus surge since the pandemic began with about 1% of the state’s entire population becoming infected with COVID-19 over the past two weeks, according to officials. The Louisiana Department of Health reported 2,421 people were in hospitals around the state with COVID-19, more than eight times the number hospitalized at the start of July.

Festival organizers said in a statement on Sunday that the event, originally scheduled for Oct. 8-17, was rescheduled for April 29 to May 8, 2022, "as a result of the current exponential growth of new COVID cases in New Orleans and the region and the ongoing public health emergency."

Jazz Fest is normally held in the spring but had been postponed last year to October 2021 due to the pandemic. Among the scheduled performers were Stevie Nicks, Foo Fighters, Lizzo, Dead & Company and Jimmy Buffett. 

"We now look forward to next spring, when we will present the Festival during its traditional timeframe. Next year's dates are April 29 — May 8, 2022," the festival statement said. "In the meantime, we urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials, so that we can all soon experience together the joy that is Jazz Fest."

2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival - Day 2

FILE - Aerial images of crowd and atmosphere at The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2018 at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 28, 2018, in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)

Louisiana is confirming thousands of new coronavirus cases each day, driven by the highly contagious delta variant. The state has seen the highest number of new cases per capita across the country over the last week, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows Louisiana averaging 653 COVID-19 infections for every 100,000 residents

"We have no reason to believe in our data that we’ve reached the peak," Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday. 

The percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive continues to go up in the state, reaching more than 15% Friday in a sign that the situation is worsening. Dr. Joe Kanter, the governor’s top coronavirus adviser, said 15% of emergency room visits in the state are now related to COVID-19.

Louisiana’s largest hospital issued an urgent warning last week, saying it has reached "the darkest days" of the pandemic after running out of ICU beds to treat ill patients. Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, said the hospital is "no longer giving adequate care to patients."

O’Neal said on Aug. 2 that COVID-19 patients occupied one-quarter of the facility, while people with chest pains and other medical conditions have been forced to sit in the emergency room waiting for an ICU bed. 

"We need you to open our beds for us. Please do that by getting vaccinated today, which will help us open beds in the next several weeks, and by putting your mask on today," O’Neal said.

Fifty hospitals have asked the state for staffing assistance, including Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, warning they can no longer adequately provide care to the community. Louisiana is seeking disaster medical assistance teams from the federal government. 

Louisiana has fully vaccinated 37.6% of its total population, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida, another state experiencing record hospitalizations, is closer to the national rate at 49.6%.

Nationwide, 50.1% of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated, CDC data shows. 

Louisiana has also reported growing numbers of people newly seeking coronavirus vaccines. Kanter said immunizations increased more than 500% over the last month.

The governor reissued a statewide mask mandate this week, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

RELATED: 'There are no beds left': Louisiana hospital says state in 'darkest days' of pandemic

The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Cincinnati.