People have always worried about catching certain diseases when they party in New Orleans, now they have to add one more.
The city is known for huge parties, and none are bigger than Mardi Gras. Now there’s a question if the party atmosphere in the Big Easy made it possible for the coronavirus to spread like wildfire. Mardi Gras fell on February 25, and there were huge parties and parades for the two weeks leading up to the big day.
Authorities hoped that warmer weather in the Southern U.S. would keep the illness at bay, but the trend in New Orleans is dimming their hopes. The city has the world’s highest growth rate of cases, rising 30% in the 24 hours leading up to noon on Wednesday, and authorities have warned that it’s healthcare system could reach overload as early as a week from Saturday, April 4.
Dr. Rebekah Gee, who until January was the Health Secretary for Louisiana and now heads up Louisiana State University’s health care services division, said:
“Mardi Gras was the perfect storm, it provided the perfect conditions for the spread of this virus.”
“So New Orleans had its normal level of celebration, which involved people congregating in large crowds and some 1.4 million tourists. We shared drink cups. We shared each other’s space in the crowds. We shared floats where we were throwing not just beads but probably coronavirus off Carnival floats to people who caught it and took it with them to where they came from.”
Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College, a renowned vaccine scientist and an expert on the coronavirus pandemic, said:
“There has been some research and data suggesting that warmer, more humid weather could slow this epidemic,” he said. “The fact that this occurred on the Gulf Coast, which has some of the higher humidity and temperatures in the U.S., is a serious concern.”
Hotez worries that if New Orleans fails, it could cascade to other cities in the South, such as Houston. The two cities have historically strong links made even more so by an influx of New Orleans residents into Houston following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey.
Some saw the brighter side.
Jonathan Sanders, a 35-year-old general manager of the French Quarter brasserie Justine, said the city was calm and residents largely heeding authorities orders to stay inside.
“There is always something going on at all hours of the day or night. Now, without it all, it’s very peaceful. You can park anywhere in the French Quarter.”