Too many people are misbehaving in too many places, and they’re putting too many of us at risk.
Louisiana has eased up on COVID-19 restrictions but a lot of limitations stay intact. We are not supposed to gather in crowds of people with whom we do not live. We are not supposed to go out and about as if the coronavirus scare is over. It is not.
Just last month, Tulane University students faced campus prohibitions because too many students were noncompliant. This past weekend, there were social media video posts of large numbers of people gathered in the French Quarter Saturday night and elsewhere in New Orleans.
Tulane University was direct: Six fraternities and sororities were suspended, although two later reinstated, because of violations of COVID-19 rules. Large groups had been gathering in local bars and at off-campus parties, and Tulane had its second-largest COVID-19 spike. Tulane President Michael Fitts said conduct violations and a surge meant students should stay in dorms or at their off-campus residences when not eating on campus or in class. No visitors allowed.
"All in-person student programs — including student organization events — outside of classes will be canceled, rescheduled or redesigned in light of these new restrictions," Fitts said.
Just this past weekend, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office said the Saturday night French Quarter scenes on Bourbon Street were “unacceptable.” The mayor’s office statement said the 14-second video showed “a potential super-spreader event.” Continuing, the statement said, “This is dangerous. This risks lives. And it risks coronavirus, which has plagued New Orleans since last spring.”
The Louisiana Classic Wrestling Tournament was held at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales last month. Photographs showed large numbers of people attending and participating without masks and safety precautions. Not long after the event, the Louisiana Department of Health confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak connected to an event with “more than 20 reports of athletes, staff and attendees testing positive for COVID-19.” There were hundreds at another Baton Rouge event not long ago.
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced in January an exposure notification mobile application to help slow the spread of the virus by alerting users if they were exposed to someone who tested positive. It’s free, helpful and useful for people who care. But the opportunity to learn about potential infection does not matter to those who are being careless.
Careless is not the same thing all the time: Thousands marched outside, mostly masked, in protests last summer but the spread of the virus was minimal. Today, with normal social interactions so limited for so long, folks want to get out. With more contagious variants of COVID-19 coming, and the boozy togetherness of Bourbon Street beckoning, this winter has the potential to be seriously life-threatening even as vaccines begin to roll out.
The pandemic has killed thousands in our state. Hospitals have been filled to critical levels since November. We can and must do better, whether in Baton Rouge, Gonzales or New Orleans. Partying and attending events without following COVID-19 guidelines is foolish and harmful. No one can make the virus disappear but us.