New Orleans is becoming the next coronavirus hot spot and the reason isn't much of a surprise

The next coronavirus hot spot in the United States is likely to be New Orleans. Some doctors believe the reason is obvious: Mardi Gras which brought a million people out into the streets last month.

According to one study, Louisiana, with more than 2,300 cases as of Thursday afternoon, is experiencing the fastest growth in new cases in the world…

In a grim irony, there is a rising suspicion among medical experts that the crisis may have been accelerated by Mardi Gras — the weekslong citywide celebration that unfolds in crowded living rooms, ballrooms and city streets — which this year culminated on Feb. 25…

“I think it all boils down to Mardi Gras,” said Dr. F. Brobson Lutz Jr., a former health director of New Orleans and a specialist in infectious disease. “The greatest free party in the world was a perfect incubator at the perfect time.”

The first confirmed cases of coronavirus showed up about two weeks after Mardi Gras. NBC News has more:

Dr. Richard Oberhelman, chairman of the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, also thinks Carnival crowds provided a perfect breeding ground for the highly contagious coronavirus to spread.

“People are really packed close together, especially for some of the big parades in the downtown section and really all along the route. There are a lot of opportunities for close contact and transmission,” Oberhelman said.

In retrospect this obviously was not a good idea. So why didn’t authorities in New Orleans or Louisiana shut this down? LaToya Cantrell, the mayor of New Orleans was asked this question today on CNN. Her response, essentially, was to blame the feds for not stopping her.

After saying “Leadership matters,” Cantrell added, “If we were given clear direction we would not have had Mardi Gras and I would’ve been the leader to cancel it.” I get what she’s trying to say but doesn’t she have any responsibility here?

But the truth is that the situation looked very different in late February than it does now. Back on February 25th there were no known cases of coronavirus in Louisiana. It was the opposite of a hot spot.

And if you look at what other areas around the country were doing, many of them hadn’t adjusted to the new normal by late February either. It wasn’t until ten days later on March 6 that SXSW and Emerald City Comic Con both announced plans to cancel or delay those events. The Comic Con event was probably only canceled because Seattle was already considered a coronavirus hot spot at the time.

It wasn’t until several days later on March 11 that the NBA announced it was canceling its entire season. Up until then the league was still holding games. And once again, that might not have happened if one player hadn’t tested positive, raising the concern that other players might already be infected.

Broadway shut down the next day, March 12. New York’s major art museums announced they would close on the same day. But back on February 25th, when Mardi Gras was taking place, all of these institutions were open for business and bringing crowds of people into close contact.

The coronavirus definitely reveals that we’re pretty bad as a species at dealing with things like pandemics that spread exponentially. But the blame game which is taking place now reveals we’re also pretty bad at looking backward in such cases and remembering just how recently most of us were carrying on with life as usual.

Here’s a CBS News report on the situation:

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