The city of New Orleans is recording the fastest increase in Covid-19 infections in the world and the two-month Mardi Gras festival is thought to be the reason for the area’s demise.
Yanti Turang, an emergency nurse in New Orleans Hospital, Louisiana, stepped out of the car park with full protective clothing earlier this month to meet a woman with symptoms of Covid-19 infection, who has just returned going home after transit in Korea. This woman was immediately taken to the isolation room.
Around the same time, a man who had never left the country and stayed in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras festival, which ended on February 25, also appeared in the emergency room with a cough. high fever. He was taken to the next room and cared for by health workers without protective clothing, the New York Times said.
Everyone in the hospital felt relieved, when the woman who had been through Asia was confirmed positive for seasonal flu. The man has symptoms, but the diagnosis is unclear. He was prescribed Tylenol and advised to rest and to go home.
Ms. Turang did not know what happened to the man, but two days later, the first positive for Covid-19 was confirmed in Louisiana with another person and in another hospital.
The corona virus has been in the city since, Louisiana became one of the states most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Repeat scenario in Italy
According to a study, Louisiana, with more than 2,300 new cases confirmed on the afternoon of March 26, is experiencing the fastest increase in the world. John Bel Edwards, governor of Louisiana, said on March 24 that the trajectory of new cases growth in the state was similar to that in Spain and Italy.
This week President Donald Trump approved the governors’ request for a major disaster declaration and opened federal funding to combat the outbreak.
Meanwhile, the situation in and around New Orleans is particularly serious. The city recorded 997 new infections on the afternoon of March 26, more than the 13 states combined. Hospitals are overwhelmed by patients and the number of important protective equipment is exhausting.
Orleans Parish, which borders New Orleans, recorded the highest number of deaths per capita. The parish recorded 46 new deaths, more than twice as much as Los Angeles. Including 11 deaths from nursing homes, where dozens more cases.
The festival is a sinner?
In an ironic situation, there is a growing suspicion among health professionals, that the crisis could be accelerated because of Mardi Gras, also known as the weekly Carnival throughout the city. It takes place in crowded living rooms, ballrooms and streets, and this year is the culmination of the festival on February 25.
“It is the symbol of the city of joy and a nightmare for epidemiologists. I think they all resented Mardi Gras. The world’s largest free party is the perfect nursery at the perfect time, ”said F. Brobson Lutz Jr, former New Orleans City health director and infectious disease specialist.
Dr. Catherine S. O’Neal, an infectious disease specialist and medical director at the Marian Medical Center in Baton Rouge, compared this year’s Mardi Gras to the famous Liberty Loan parade in Philadelphia in 1918. .
More than 200,000 people gathered in parades in the middle of a flu pandemic that contributed to the death toll, with more than 12,000 dead within 6 weeks in Philadelphia.
But Dr. O’Neal did not blame anyone who did not act to stop the festival. At the time of the festival, no Covid-19 cases were identified in Louisiana and there were fewer than 50 cases across the United States.
Dr. Susan Hassig, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the School of Public and Tropical Health, Tulane University, said there are other reasons besides the Mardi Gras festival, which could explain why New Orleans was badly affected by the disease.
The city is small but densely populated, the tourism industry grows, ports and airports connect with every corner of the world and how people connect with each other. The culture here is people who talk to each other. “That means you stop and have a conversation, then you go away and continue talking to someone,” Dr. Hassig.
Turang, who worked for the Sierra Leone emergency room during the 2015 Ebola epidemic, said doctors and nurses were talking about the cause of the outbreak due to the Mardi Gras festival.
The first case of Covid-19 in Louisiana was confirmed on March 9, but people with mild symptoms were identified as a seasonal flu infection. “We were blindfolded, in fact it was here before the first case was confirmed,” nurse Turang said.
The first case was announced less than 2 weeks after the Mardi Gras event. Around the same time, reports of cases began to appear in Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas. Positive cases have mostly returned from New Orleans recently.
What makes health professionals headache is that the first cases of Covid-19 in New Orleans did not travel abroad or return from another state, according to Dr. Jennifer Avegno, city health director.
Their unusual initial symptoms confused doctors. They just have the feeling that something is amiss. Clearly, the spread in the community is quite rapid and the cases are not directly related to each other.
A week after the first case was confirmed, Governor Edwards issued orders to close public places, bars, and restaurants. The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade is also banned, although large numbers of people still go to church, forcing police to intervene.
Pastors still hold prayer meetings, despite a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. A pastor said the virus was a spiritual motivator, saying he would heal the infected by putting his hands on them and praying.
According to a recent study by professor Gary A. Wagner, University of Louisiana, the rate of new infections in this state is the fastest in the world, when compared to other regions in the 2 weeks after the case. Firstly.
“In a small and close city like New Orleans, that means almost everyone is in contact with someone who is infected,” Professor Wagner said.
Fear the federal government abandoned
This feeling immediately became familiar and different to a city that had been devastated by historical catastrophes, including the 1853 and 1905 yellow fever epidemic and Katrina a century later in the year. 2005.
Once again, New Orleans residents feared they might be abandoned by national leaders, because this time the corona virus was a global disaster, said Broderick Bagert, an organizer of the Together Louisiana group.
Governor Edwards, who is experienced with disasters such as hurricanes, said he is struggling to cope with the new type of disaster. “We don’t really have a book about these things,” Governor Edwards said.
“If you have a flood or a storm it is only a small part of the affected country, so you can get the full attention of the federal government and you can get a lot of attention. Help from neighboring states. But it is now impossible, the disease is in every state, ”governor Edwards acknowledged the difficulties.
Doctors and nurses in the city as well as many other places across the United States are grappling with a severe shortage of important medical equipment and protective gear. On 24 March, Governor Edwards said he wanted to see the federal government more involved in responding to the pandemic, in a way that gives priority to seriously affected areas.
“Respirators and personal protective equipment should be allocated, based on actual needs in each state,” said governor Edwards. As the pandemic spreads, there is a potential shortage of health workers, especially nurses and respiratory therapists, that is the biggest concern.
Currently, many health care workers in emergency rooms are exposed to the virus. They wear masks and check their temperature regularly, as long as they have no symptoms, they still have to work.