The U.S. Navy has canceled in-person events for Fleet Week 2021 in New York City due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19, it announced Monday.
Instead, the Navy announced it will hold "Virtual Fleet Week" for the second consecutive year, this time on social media from May 26 to 31.
"The Navy is committed to doing everything it can to defeat the coronavirus," Rear Adm. Charles W. Rock, commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, said in a statement announcing the decision, adding: "Keeping our Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen at home is the best way to ensure we protect the health and safety of New York and our force so we can return to normal as soon as possible."
The inaugural Fleet Week celebration in New York City took place in 1984, other than 2020, the event had been canceled in 2013 — that for budgetary reasons. The Navy said the 2019 edition saw more than 100,000 people take tours of ships moored in the city, as well as visit associated displays at area parks and school. The inaugural Virtual Fleet Week New York in 2020 reached more than 2 million people — with more than 4.4 million "impressions," the Navy said, with "content posted across all platforms, including photos, graphics, videos, Instagram stories and text."
Though the schedule of events for 2021 remains "under development," the Navy said followers will be able to access content through Fleet Week New York’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.
A spokesman for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point said the decision to go virtual will be a "disappointment" for the approximately 1,000 cadets there, about 750 of whom are on-campus [the other quarter are currently at sea for the semester]. Spokesman George Rhynedance said the academy typically hosts a Navy ship during Fleet Week and said, "It's a big weekend for us." Despite the disappointment, Rhynedance said he expects a large segment of cadets will follow Virtual Fleet Week. "We like supporting the Navy," he said, "and so we look forward to participating in some manner."
As Rock said in his statement Monday: "We’re excited to once again connect with people online in New York and around the world. No matter where you are, people will be able to find us on social media and watch whenever it is convenient for them so they can see how the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard safeguard our nation and how incredible the men and women who serve in uniform are."