They built a big old fence around Mike the Tiger’s habitat, where the big cat stares across North Stadium Drive toward LSU’s vacant football palace.
The habitat is enclosed in glass to protect the people from the tiger.
The fence is designed to protect the tiger from the people, after Nadia, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo, came down with coronavirus.
It’s a small example of how the pandemic has turned life upside down here in Louisiana.
In a state famous for its food, restaurants are closed. Jazz Fest went forward even after Hurricane Katrina, but it has been canceled twice this year: in the spring and then again in the fall. LSU football fans, excited about defending our national championship, may not be able to hold their celebrated tailgates this year. They may not even get to attend the games.
Amid all that dislocation, we should be proud of how our people have hung together, accepted shared sacrifice, and kept our sense of humor.
Hopefully, our lives will begin to return to some version of normal beginning today, when the state enters the first phase of its recovery. New Orleans, with slightly different rules, begins its Phase 1 tomorrow. And our state can move forward if we continue to behave responsibly, wear masks and respect social distancing.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has provided steady leadership. Someone has to decide what activities are allowed or banned, and it’s inevitable that some will think the rules are unfair. The governor of Michigan banned boating and lawn care services, and she has been greeted with howls of protest. But protests in Baton Rouge have mostly fizzled, and the steady improvement in the state’s overall numbers suggests the cautious approach was the correct one.
The next challenge for our leaders will be to craft plans to rebuild our economy.
That will require vision that has been lacking in Baton Rouge for decades. Louisiana suffered greatly in the 1980s when the state was too dependent on the oil industry. We are less reliant on energy, but the cycles of boom and bust are still challenging.
Now, we face the same situation with tourism. It is a great industry and we have distinctive assets — and hosting visitors is something we’re good at. But the travel economy will be slower to recover. This will mark the fourth time this century that we have been victimized by disruptions to tourism that were not of our doing: The terrorist attacks of 2001, Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill and now the coronavirus crisis.
We need to protect and grow our energy and tourism industries.
But our challenge is to build a more diverse economy, and in this century — when people will have a choice about where to live and work — the winners will be communities that invest in great schools and great places to live.
After Katrina, New Orleans came back stronger because it dared to change. Louisiana needs that same courage.