Scoot: The coronavirus crisis grows, especially in New Orleans

March 16, 2020 - 12:39 pm

The idea that a deadly virus is threatening the population of the United States in the year 2020 is more imaginable as a movie plot than reality, but each day that passes bears more changes to our lives as individuals – and as a nation.

The coronavirus – COVID-19 – is a new virus that has blindsided the world’s population. When Texas had cases of coronavirus before Louisiana – we knew it was a matter of time before our state was hit, and we have quickly surpassed Texas and many other states in the number of cases.

In the wake of the massive gathering of Mardi Gras in New Orleans – coronavirus cases have shot up. It is not certain – but it is reasonable to believe that there were transmissions during the days and nights when we gather together. Large gatherings are part of our culture – but now we have to be smart of put a temporary hold on some of the things we love to do.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued new rules pertaining to the hospitality industry that our city survives on. Full-service restaurants must close at 9:00 pm and bars and nightclubs are forced to close at midnight with last call at 11:15 pm. The idea of bars and clubs in the French Quarter having a “last call” bespeaks the seriousness of the threat of the disease.

Along the way – there have been missteps in what appeared to be random enforcing of social distancing. On Saturday – many decided to be part of an impromptu block party between two Irish pubs in uptown New Orleans – but nothing was done to stop the gathering of crowds on Bourbon Street. I posted a video pointing out the discrepancy and whether it was a result of that or a coincidence – the City of New Orleans directed NOPD onto Bourbon Street to disperse the crowds. It was the right move for the city to maintain consistency and address the crowds on Bourbon Street, too.

Mayor Cantrell’s news conference Sunday afternoon was filled with great content about the actions we all must take to stop the rate of increase of cases. But we – the people – must be willing to make the sensible sacrifices necessary and that has proven to be a challenge.

The CDC has said all gatherings of over 50 people should be halted for the time being. Restaurants and bars in New Orleans are being told to cut their capacity to 50 or less and provide more space between tables. While restaurants are ordered to close at 9:00 pm – those with the ability to deliver food can continue their service during their regular hours. But how effective will these rules in New Orleans be if surrounding parishes do not implement the same standards? The free flowing of people across parish lines should be a concern.

The biggest threat I faced over the weekend was going to Trader Joe’s – where the check-out lines extended from each register to all the way to the back of each aisle of shelves in the back of the store. I waited in line for 44 minutes just to check out.

At her news conference – Mayor Cantrell made an important point when she warned everyone NOT to use Facebook or social media as a primary source of information. The spread of fake news and misinformation through social media directly threatens our collective goal of slowing the spread of the disease. Trolls navigate social media and dilute the important content.

An example of how trolls discredit social media was obvious in a few of the posted comments to my video interview with an entertainer at Rick’s Cabaret on Bourbon Street. She represented all of the service industry people in our community that will be immediately hit with a significant drop in income. A few posts took time to focus on criticizing her height – her looks – her intellect. I was quick to point out that my goal was to show an example of those who will feel the brunt of the new – but necessary – rules governing businesses in the French Quarter. I took pleasure in pointing out to the trolls that there are many much smarter than they are who would be justified to question their intellect as soon as they opened their mouths.

We are in an unprecedented crisis in America, and this is not the time to point political fingers or to be so superficial as to criticize an individual who is simply sharing how many will be impacted by this crisis.

As of this writing – there are 114 cases of coronavirus in Louisiana with 79 in Orleans Parish; and there have been 2 deaths in New Orleans. The disease is spreading faster in New Orleans than many other cities. We can slow that increase if we work together and don’t be stupid.

The impact on the economy – to New Orleans – and the nation – could be devastating – but if we are willing to work together and take the threat of COVID-19 seriously – then we will defeat it; and life in America will return to normal.

In the past – Americans pulled together and put politics and all differences aside and worked together to conquer a crisis. We live in a severely divided nation during a presidential election year. The temptation to make this crisis a political issue will be overwhelming for some – let’s make sure the rest of us maintain “social distancing” from that mentality.

God Bless America!

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