Mummers march down Broad Street on Jan. 1, 2020

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Philadelphia officials will allow the city’s famous New Year’s Day celebration to continue as planned, as COVID-19 case counts continue to surge.

The Mummers Parade is firmly on for 2022, meaning 10,000 or so sequined performers will march down Broad Street on Jan. 1 as they have nearly every year for more than a century. Last year’s event was canceled because of the pandemic.

“The city hasn’t had any conversations about canceling or modifying the Mummers Parade,” spokesperson Irene Contreras Reyes told Billy Penn, “including discussions about thresholds for canceling or altering the parade.”

Philly’s health department is still “monitoring the latest developments,” Reyes said, but a week out, it seems unlikely the parade will see any changes.

The highly contagious omicron variant reached Philadelphia at the beginning of December, and the Department of Public Health recorded a 6.9% positivity rate in city COVID tests last week, double what it was a month ago.

That’s still a lot lower than last year around this time. When the Mummers announced the 2021 parade wouldn’t happen, Philly’s positivity was hovering around 9%. Thanks to widespread availability of the COVID vaccine — at least 70% of residents over 12 are fully vaccinated — there are also way fewer hospitalizations and deaths than last winter.

Some Mummers still gathered last year in protest of the city’s cancelation.

The New Year’s Day parade is a one-of-a-kind Philly celebration. Passed down from 17th century Swedish immigrants, this event is unique in the United States. It’s been an official, city-sanctioned event since 1901.

But its legacy has been tarnished with repeated stories of racism, sexism and transphobia among the performers and performances, and the city recently made discrimination training a requirement for participation. Earlier this year, longtime Mummers Parade director Lee Dignam pleaded guilty to wire fraud and embezzlement.

With the specter of the city’s 1918 flu-superspreader parade in the rearview, Philly’s annual St. Patrick’s Day and Puerto Rican Day parades have been canceled for two years in a row. But the 2021 Thanksgiving Day Parade made its triumphant return in November.

If you want to get in on the Mummers action, what can you do to stay safe? The Health Department published some specific guidance for parade-goers:

  • Get vaccinated (including your booster)
  • Wear a mask, unless you’re actively eating or drinking, or playing a woodwind/brass instrument
  • Keep as much social distance as you can
  • Avoid the extra crowded areas
  • If you’re feeling sick, don’t go (even if you test negative)

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...