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Mardi Gras, Coronavirus and Louisiana

Louisiana has unfortunately become one of the faces of the coronavirus epidemic in the United States. In just one week, the death toll in New Orleans has risen 312% and has claimed over 150 lives.

There has been much conjecture that recently completed Mardi Gras festivities have contributed to the rapidly spiking infection rates. Partygoers stood shoulder to shoulder in the packed streets and parades. Over one million visitors cram New Orleans during Mardi Gras and this year it could not have come at a worse time. It ends in late February and the scope of what was to come was largely unknown. Most had not heard of the term social distancing, let alone begun practicing it.

In a cruel twist, other experts say that the locals that left town may have brought it back. Many New Orleans residents escape the crush of Mardi Gras and use it as an opportunity to visit friends and relatives all over the country. Residents spent time in hard hit areas like NY and NJ and then returned home as the virus began to pummel the country.

Once Covid-19 gained a foothold in New Orleans, many external factors have made its growth rapid. Many low-income families share overcrowded homes. 24% of residents live at poverty level, well above other hotspots such as NYC and Kings County, Washington. Transportation is a challenge as well, and many people do not have access to cars. This creates obstacles to getting tested and causes the virus to continue to spread. Rampant homelessness and drug abuse are major contributing factors as well.

The unprecedented influx of patients has begun to strain the Louisiana hospital systems.  Governor John Bel Edwards has said that current data suggests that they will run out of ventilators in a week and hospital bed space as early as April 10.

The importance of following all federal and state guidelines at this time, cannot be overstated. Stay at home guidelines need to be strictly enforced to flatten the curve. Our hospitals need to stay functional and help everyone who needs them. At the Department of Health website there is a great deal of information regarding guidelines and resources. Everyone is encouraged to go there and educate themselves as much as possible.

As the coronavirus pandemic explodes in our state, the drug and alcohol rehabilitation community of Louisiana finds itself on the frontlines. People are alone. People are scared. Relapse triggers are everywhere in these situations. We need to step up. Lives are at stake.

The virus has caused staffing shortages and admissions complications. And yet many facilities have adapted and managed to keep their doors open. Virtual meetings are being conducted and people are caring for each other and carrying each other.

The opioid epidemic has been exacerbated by the havoc of coronavirus. Louisiana cannot forget the recovery community at this crucial time. We need to make sure that all resources available are utilized and that we all band together to save and support the people we love.

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