Any conservative saying that New Orleans’ Black Lives Matter and prison reform protests have had any effect on the recent coronavirus spikes will have to take up their opinions with the city’s health director, Dr. Jennifer Avegno.
According to a recent report from NOLA.com, Avegno was quoted as saying that after weeks of following cases closely since the protests began, “Neither [the Louisiana Department of Health] nor we have identified any clusters related to protests.”
One could connect the viral safety of these rallies to the high amount of participants practicing precautions during the demonstrations. A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research surveyed protest data from 315 cities and found that behaviors like social distancing actually went up amid protest events. They hypothesized that attendees “may have mitigated the spread of COVID-19 via infection countermeasures such as wearing masks.”
NOLA.com’s reporting corroborates this, quoting Avegno as saying that from her observations there “is a very strong case for the effectiveness of wearing masks, as the vast majority of folks that I saw in those pictures were wearing masks and trying to physical distance.”
This information comes in tandem with a recent report from the State Department of Health that found at least 100 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 at bars and restaurants near LSU. Nola.com has also reported that coronavirus clusters have been linked to Isidore Newman School graduation parties at a Lakefront restaurant and an Irish Channel bar.
These recent events may have inspired city and state officials to be more tough on the virus. According to WWLTV, Mayor Cantrell has even threatened to shut down New Orleans if the rules for COVID-19 are not followed. WWLTV reported that Cantrell has issued a special task force to enforce the reopening guidelines by shutting down large social gatherings and finding those not obeying the rules.
Even the state department joined in to be tougher on the virus, with John Bel Edwards taking to Twitter to remind people to keep their social distance, make sure they left the house with a mask on, etc. According to the Advocate, Edwards also announced that he would be delaying the state’s move into phase three of reopening until July 24. “There are a lot of people out there saying they’re done with the virus,” Edwards said. “Well, the virus isn’t done with us.”
All these statements come from a recent press conference Edwards held at the State Capitol on Monday where he discussed the state’s COVID-19 response. The governor made clear that statewide enforcement could strengthen.
“[Business shutdowns are] something that could happen if we don’t get back on top of this and reverse the most recent trends we’re seeing,” he said, adding, “we are going to be more active now.”
The Office of Public Health has been quoted as saying that its “strong recommendation” to the governor was to remain in phase 2, and its secretary, Dr. Alex Billioux, claimed that they could not tell which share of the population has gained immunity to the virus.
The Advocate has also reported that Louisiana COVID-19 cases have steadily risen in recent weeks while total testing numbers have seen a slight dip, with New Orleans faring better than other cities. The Department of Health reported over 800 new cases and 18 deaths in the past day.