Have you browsed through some of the Southern Decadence groups on social media lately? If you didn’t know any better, you might get the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic is completely behind us. Sure, there are occasional posts about masks, but on the whole, one gets the impression that the hordes of Southern Decadence devotees who did not come last year are determined to make up for lost time. And the number of people posting who are seeking advice because this will be their first Southern Decadence is alarming. Pandemic? What pandemic?
I cannot be the only one who is thinking the unthinkable. Is it possible Mayor Cantrell might shut down the bars again? It’s a distinct possibility. New Orleans is currently experiencing a ferocious fourth wave of COVID, fueled primarily by the Delta variant. The mayor recently reinstituted the indoor mask mandate (regardless of vaccination status) and mandated that all city employees and contractors be vaccinated.
Why? Hospitalizations are rising at an alarming rate. Ochsner has stopped all elective surgeries and is pulling personnel from their clinics to supplement hospital workers. One physician recently told me, “This is really bad and it’s going to get worse.” Spokespeople from other hospital systems echo the same sentiment. In recent weeks, close to 2,000 people have been hospitalized with COVID.
Some might say “But those people are unvaccinated. I have my shots, so I have nothing to worry about, right?” WRONG! You may not need to go to the hospital because of COVID, but what if you have a stroke or a heart attack or are involved in a car accident? If the hospitals are filled to capacity and there is a waiting list for ICU beds, you are screwed.
Hospital capacity is what drove the shutdowns last year. Despite blow-back from some business owners, Mayor Cantrell received generally positive (some even glowing) reviews for her handling of the pandemic last year. Don’t think she won’t shut it all down again now, especially since she’s up for re-election in the fall.
Also remember that the Red Dress Run is next week. The COVID numbers from that super-spreader event will come in just as Southern Decadence weekend is getting started. At the very least, the Mayor will likely relegate the bars to “To Go” service only. Or she could do what she did for Mardi Gras earlier this year—shut down all bars in the city for five days.
But none of that will happen if people would just get vaccinated. If you are not yet vaccinated, please do so immediately. If you don’t, you are not only putting yourself and loved ones in danger, you are threatening the strides we’ve made in the last year. You are putting at risk people’s jobs and livelihoods. And, considering the number of letters in the Greek alphabet, you are potentially ensuring the cancellation (I shudder at the thought) of yet another Mardi Gras. So for the love of Mardi Gras and all that is holy, get your damn shot.