In the past year, many big events have returned after the pandemic put them on hold but some are now starting to scale back again due to rising cases.
This includes celebrations on the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday on Jan. 17. In Arlington, organizers announced this week their annual four-day-long MLK “Advancing the Dream” celebration has been postponed.
Arlington MLK Celebration Committee member Pastor Kennedy Jones said the decision was not made lightly, but they felt it was the most prudent decision.
“The events themselves are meant for the specific purpose of bringing people together,” Pastor Jones said Friday. “It was very difficult trying to decide whether we stop or whether we just push through it and take the risk. We just felt that the risk was too great.”
Organizers cited the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Arlington and the surrounding areas for their reason to postpone. On Friday, Tarrant County Public Health reported 3,952 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Dr. Grant Fowler, chair of Family Medicine at the TCU-UNTHSC School of Medicine in Fort Worth, said the new Omicron variant is considered more contagious but generally, milder.
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“If we had to pick one that spread more rapidly, it’s certainly great that it doesn’t seem to be the one that causes as many severe respiratory problems,” Dr. Fowler said.
Fowler added more organizers of events may choose to postpone or cancel over the next few weeks and months due to rising cases, but he predicted cancellations and postponements may not happen as frequently compared to the response to the Delta variant.
“I think people are probably going to loosen up a bit if they’re fully vaccinated and start just taking the risk of willing to do this. I think that’s just going to be human nature over time,” he said.
Not all upcoming events celebrating Dr. King’s life are on hold. In Fort Worth, Jim Austin said his organization’s events this year are still scheduled to happen. Austin, the co-founder of the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum, said their events include a day of service, a health fair, and three concerts throughout January.
Overall, Austin said he felt comfortable with their protocols in place.
“Masks are required and temperatures are taken for the safety of anyone that is coming out to the show. There’s so many things that are being canceled right now all over the country. Particularly in Fort Worth, we want to be sensitive to the public,” he said. “The health fair is indoors, but the venue is 10,000 square feet. There will probably only be a couple hundred people to come out for that.”
Whether events are on or on hold, Pastor Jones said there are ways to personalize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this Jan. 17.
“Dr. King’s life was about service,” he said. “I think if we make it a point that we’re going to commit ourselves to service in this day and when the four-day celebration really comes up or the weekend comes up in February, then I think we will honor his legacy.”
Jones said the rescheduled event will likely be in February, but they have not announced a final date yet.