New Orleans ranks second only to Seattle among US cities in per capita coronavirus cases. Health experts say Mardi Gras was the ideal combination of factors to dovetail the number of COVID-19 infections. Chair of the Global Community Health Department of Tulane’s School of Public Health Dr. Richard Oberhelman says the first factor is the international attraction of tourists.
“During Mardi Gras, it is likely there were visitors from parts of the world where the virus was being transmitted,” said Oberhelman
By greeting others and passing food and drinks around, Oberhelman says hand contamination is likely to have been the main culprit of spread.
“They can spread that when they shake hands with people or if they touch something like a cup that they then hand to somebody else,” said Oberhelman.
Oberhelman says the risk of spread wasn’t just limited to indoor activities such as Mardi Gras balls.
“When the parades are going by and people are clamoring for beads, they’re real close together so those kinds of opportunities would lead to spread,” said Oberhelman.
When Carnival season wrapped three weeks ago, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, but asymptomatic carriers may have relayed the spread to others in the time since.