On the map updated daily by the Centers for disease control and prevention (CDC), the federal public health organization in the United States, the clear spots have disappeared: no more state is spared from the coronavirus health crisis .
But some regions appear in a darker red than their neighbors. This is particularly the case in Louisiana – in one week, the number of cases there increased fourfold. More than 150 people have died since the first case appeared on March 9.
Louisiana, another hotbed of the epidemic in the United States
If media attention is focused on New York State, America’s showcase and epicenter of the American pandemic with nearly a thousand dead, another major tourist destination is struck by the virus: Louisiana, and more particularly the city of New Orleans.
Since the confirmation of the first infected person in the very old French colony, on March 9, the spread of the virus has been very rapid. The state is counting more than a thousand cases in two weeks, a rate unparalleled in the world, according to a study by Gary Wagner, professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Sunday March 29, the assessment had passed to 3,540 contaminations, for 151 dead and more than 1,100 people hospitalized.
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These figures, taken in relation to Louisiana’s population of 4.7 million, make it one of the most critical places in the United States. Despite the confinement of New Orleans since March 20 and then of the entire state on March 23, the situation continues to deteriorate. “The virus is obviously spreading faster than we would like. We are staying on a trajectory that would make us exceed our health care capacity around April 4 “, lamented Governor John Bel Edwards on Sunday March 29.
Carnival on the dock
Why is Louisiana in this situation? Why, for example, does it have more cases than neighboring Texas, almost seven times more populated? According to experts, the source of the problem is what usually makes New Orleans proud: its famous Mardi Gras carnival.
For several weeks, the carnival season begins in January in New Orleans and is in full swing in February_, nearly 1.5 million locals and tourists have danced, sang and toasted in the streets of the French Quarter. When the carnival ended on February 25 with Mardi Gras, the United States only had about fifteen reported cases; no special precautions were required.
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“Mardi Gras was the key moment for the spread of the virus Said Rebekah Gee, who was responsible for state health issues until January. “People from all over the world were in processions, at parties. Unfortunately, they shared necklaces, drinks and they threw not only necklaces but also the Covid-19 “, she said on the public radio NPR, in reference to the tradition, in vogue in New Orleans during the carnival, of the exchange of plastic pearl necklace.
Texas and Florida impose quarantine on Louisiana travelers
Faced with this alarming situation, the neighboring states of Louisiana are stepping up measures to protect themselves from imported contagion, even if the virus is already present on their soil. West of the former French colony, Texas – which has 2,500 cases and 34 dead – decided on Sunday March 29 to impose a 14-day quarantine on anyone arriving by road from Louisiana.
A few days earlier, Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, had already made a similar decision for passengers arriving by plane from New Orleans, or, moreover, from the New York region.
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Although non-border, Florida – nearly 5,000 cases and 59 dead – is also trying to protect itself. Three hours by car is enough to reach the western part of the state from Louisiana, after crossing the Mississippi and a small portion of Alabama. Checkpoints are now installed on the freeway at the entrance to Florida, and people arriving from Louisiana are subject to two weeks of quarantine.