CDC: Mardi Gras may figure in count of Louisiana virus cases
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an influx of tourists for Mardi Gras in February may have been a reason why Louisiana experienced a higher rate of COVID-19 cases than other Southern states.
In a report posted Friday, the CDC says population density might play “a significant role in the acceleration of transmission” of the coronavirus. And it said Louisiana experienced a “temporarily high” population density because of Carnival season visitors.
It also noted the season ended Feb. 25 — well before federal calls to discourage mass gatherings in mid-March.
Louisiana reported at least 34 newly recorded coronavirus-related deaths Sunday, bringing the death toll in the state to 840. The number of known cases reached more than 20,500 Sunday.
But officials say the rate of hospitalizations, while still increasing, has slowed. The number hospitalized in the state was 2,084 on Sunday, up a bit from 2,045 on Saturday. And the number of patients using ventilators continued dropping: 458 on Sunday were on ventilators, the health department said, down from 470 a day earlier.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has said widespread ongoing public cooperation with state and local mandates against public gatherings has helped lead to the slowing rate in hospitalizations.
The extent of public cooperation was on display at St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter. Archbishop Gregory Aymond led a live-streamed Easter Mass in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans on Sunday.
The pews were empty and, other than the concelebrants, the only other people in the Cathedral were those with official roles in the Mass, a sign language interpreter, a Cathedral maintenance employee, and seven photographers and reporters.
“We are not in isolation. We are still one family coming together,” Aymond said. He said the coronavirus pandemic “has brought great darkness over the earth. Our way of life has changed.”
Still, some defied the mandates. The Rev. Tony Spell touted an Easter service Sunday morning at the Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana, near Baton Rouge. The number attending was unclear from a Facebook video. Spell’s services, held on Sundays and various weeknights, have at times drawn hundreds.
The mandates have led to parts of New Orleans’ usually bustling French Quarter to resemble a ghost town. But the city and Brennan’s restaurant made light of the situation in a lighthearted post on Twitter for Easter Sunday. It showed someone in an Easter bunny costume — and pink medical mask — skipping down an empty Royal Street in the quarter, stopping in front of the shuttered Brennan’s, and using a saber to knock the corks from champagne bottles.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild symptoms like fever and a cough that resolve in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, more severe symptoms can occur, including pneumonia, that can lead to death.