Now Is Still Not the Time To Eliminate COVID Precautions but Life Must Go On


Retired Washington, D.C. non-profit executive Kim Gandy was ready for a fun week in her former hometown, New Orleans. After grabbing a rental car at the airport, she and her daughter Max – a blogger specializing in artisanal chocolates – quickly dropped off their luggage at a CBD hotel. Like thousands of other Covid-weary folk, the pair headed to the Krewe of Boo Parade followed by dinner at a trendy New Orleans restaurants. “It made me feel safer that vaccine cards are required to eat inside a restaurant” said Gandy who is always masked. During their five-day stay the Gandy family will spend thousands of dollars on lodging, dining, entertainment and of course chocolate – just what New Orleans’ economy needs.

The crowds of leisure visitors filling the city’s hotels and STRs each weekend are ready to put the pandemic behind them. Unfortunately COVID is going away anytime soon. Even though hospitalizations and death from the Delta variant are down, new variants, breakthrough cases and the high number of unvaccinated citizens – including Whites living in Louisiana – will continue to drive up infection rates. Booster shots are now widely available for most adults and can conveniently be scheduled online even through Walgreens and CVS. Shots for children ages 5-11 will soon be approved. Ongoing incentives, like a $100 Visa card, are helping to slowly increase the overall vaccination rate.

New Orleans tourism is entering its annual high season with Halloween, Thanksgiving, the Bayou Classic, the New Orleans Bowl, New Year’s Eve, the Sugar Bowl and Mardi Gras all just around the corner. Forecasters are predicting a mild winter in New Orleans which should also encourage additional visitors who might want to take a break from their snow and icy weather. It is impossible to know how many of those visitors will not have been vaccinated or are already carrying the virus and don’t realize it.

Mayor Cantrell’s proposal to require vaccinations of visitors flying into New Orleans for Mardi Gras is well-meaning but not very practical. It could become a disincentive to visitors who want to spend their money in the city. Based on last night’s number of maskless parade goers, it also may be impossible to control who wears a mask outdoors.

New Orleans economy will continue to suffer if COVID restrictions are too onerous. Prospective new businesses could hesitate to locate or expand here. The preponderance of hurricanes and other weather-related disasters already casts New Orleans in a negative spotlight nationally. Between the pandemic and the weather’s effect on everyday life, citizens are overwhelmed.

People have a right to decide how and where they want to live, and what level of risks work for them. COVID-19 cases are rapidly rising in England due to a laissez-faire approach which involved reopening the economy and “living” with the virus.  Though Britain’s new cases haven’t reached their last winter’s highs, hospital admissions rose more than 15 percent in the preceding week. New cases are soon predicted to soar up to 100,000 per day.

The new delta – formally known as AY.4.2 or Delta plus –which is expanding in the U.K. is reported to be 10-15 percent more transmissible than the standard delta variant. While CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says the AY.4.2 isn’t a major threat to Americans at this time, WHO officials are also tracking more than a dozen other variants.

A 30-something New Orleans doctor who had received both COVID shots and the booster decided to finally reschedule his family’s long awaited trip to Disney world. Shortly after they landed in Orlando, the doctor began to feel unwell. The following day he was airlifted back to New Orleans where he spent the next few weeks on a hospital ventilator. Having received the COVID vaccinations and even the booster shot will not prevent anyone from contracting the disease.

Mayor Cantrell and government leaders must now make tough decisions about Mardi Gras and the other events that make the Crescent City the place where locals want to live and work and tourists want to visit. If New Orleanians find it too difficult to survive here, who will carry on the culture that has made the city famous?

Individuals with questions about COVID and vaccinations can contact Louisiana’s COVID-19 hotline at  1-855-453-0774.

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