Viewpoint: It’s time to put that mask on again

Those readers who know me personally understand that I am very involved in the Greek Festival, which is returning Memorial Day weekend after a two-year hiatus. During a visit to the Greek church earlier this week, the festival’s long-time operations director, who comes in from Texas, said, “I see you are wearing a mask again,” to which I replied: “I never stopped wearing a mask.”

Just before Jazz Fest, I wrote about an out-if-town friend, a decades-long Fest enthusiast, who wanted to mask at the Fair Grounds even though he is fully vaccinated and boosted. Impractical, I thought, and way too hot to mask.  He recently flew home after two jam-packed weeks during which he attended the festival all seven days, consumed copious amounts of ice cold watermelon in the WWOZ tent, caught nighttime performances such singer John Boutté at d.b.a., and dined with old friends at Peche, Brennan’s and Doris Metropolitan. On the way to the airport, he even grabbed an oyster po’boy at the Kenner Seafood Market. By the time his flight landed in New York, he had the dreaded Covid cough.

‘Out of time and options,’ Live Oak Cafe is latest casualty of pandemic losses

The Live Oak Cafe — the epitome of Oak Street’s laid-back, creative vibe — is closing its doors Sunday (May 8) after its Mother’s Day brunch. Announcing the closure on the cafe’s Facebook page, chef and owner Clare Leavy said that the uptick in business during Carnival season was not enough to overcome the losses experienced during the pandemic. “Simply put, we are out of time and options,” Leavy stated. The cafe is known for its fresh, down-home renditions of classic brunch fare with dishes such as Sweet Potato Benedict and its beloved Shrimp & Grits. And every meal at Live Oak has been served with a side of live music.

Viewpoint: Don’t let the latest Covid variant ruin your Jazz Fest

The thousands of tourists and locals who will attend the long-awaited New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will surely cause an increase in cases of Covid-19 and it newest sub-variant, BA.2. A friend coming in for the festival wants to wear his mask at the Fair Grounds. While a good idea, that’s probably not very practical considering the heat and the ongoing consumption of libations at Jazz Fest and the evening events. Ensuring each attendee takes the personal responsibility to avoid infection at this mostly outdoors event is a better solution. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reported Tuesday that the coronavirus has infected nearly 60% of people in the U.S. at least once, including about 75% of children.

Viewpoint: As new variant threatens the city, maskless officials send a dangerous message

When New Orleans elected officials don’t feel the urgency to consistently wear masks at Carnival festivities, how can they expect citizens and visitors to take the rules seriously?  Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor have been blowing up with posts this week regarding the reckless behavior of Mayor LaToya Cantrell, her besties and others whose images were captured sans masks at the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball last Friday night. National and international media attention was extensive. 

“Why waste your emotions on this,” wrote  Daveida Pittman on Nextdoor. “We all know what it is. But the citizens elected her again, so apparently people love the hypocrisy ….” New Orleanians  understand that the rules Cantrell put in place allow for masks to be removed when eating or drinking. Most of the Gallier Hall video and other images available appear to show that masks were barely worn once the party moved into high gear.

Viewpoint: What’s your plan to stay safe during Carnival season?

With several hundred thousand people about to descend on the streets of New Orleans, each of us should make a personal commitment to avoid becoming a statistic during Carnival season. After all, Covid-19 and crime are the overarching themes of this year’s Mardi Gras. Although parade goers might not see floats or throws touting either, they definitely will be lurking in the background. 

Some people – including the majority of the Louisiana Legislature – think that masks and social distancing are a thing of the past and that Covid-19 is no longer serious or life-threatening to the majority of the population. Tell that to Ed Robinson Jr., founder of L&R Security, whose employees dressed in bright yellow T-shirts are a welcoming presence at Jazz Fest and other major events. Robinson’s wife, Octavia Robinson, a retired New Orleans police officer who had been vaccinated and boosted, just died from Covid.

Viewpoint: Crime and Covid will not mix well with Carnival

It’s Twelfth Night. I rushed out this morning to the King Cake Hub’s annual Carnival Kick Off Party, held this year at Zony Mash Beer Project. As I surveyed all the offerings, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of impact Mardi Gras will have on Covid and crime, both of which continue to break records. Carnival should be a record-breaking event as well. People are tired of being cooped up and want to celebrate.

Viewpoint: Covid and crime are raging as New Orleanians prepare to ring in the new year

More than 6,000 new Covid-19 cases were identified in Louisiana on Wednesday (Dec. 29). A teenage boy was injured in the second of two Desire-area shootings Tuesday evening. Three lions at the Audubon Zoo tested positive for Covid on Wednesday. In a case of mistaken identity, 7-year-old Dillan Burton was shot to death Sunday night in Algiers while riding in her mother’s car.

Three lions at the Audubon Zoo test positive for Covid-19

From the Audubon Nature Institute

Three African lions at Audubon Zoo tested positive yesterday for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. During the week of Dec. 20, Audubon Zoo animal care staff observed the lions were coughing and producing nasal discharge. Nasal and fecal samples for three symptomatic lions were collected and tested at the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Baton Rouge, confirming the presence of SARS-CoV-2 for lions Arnold and Kali and their cub Asani on Dec. 28.

After pandemic losses, Magazine Street businesses were counting on Carnival parade revenue. Then the routes changed.

While most New Orleanians are glad the parades will return to the streets for the 2022 Carnival season, the route changes will hurt many of the small businesses along Magazine Street. The 2022 routes, announced on Tuesday by Mayor LaToya Cantrell, eliminate the  stretch of Magazine Street from Jefferson to Napoleon Avenue, where nine krewes begin their procession, and the longer stretch of Magazine from Henry Clay Avenue that the Krewe of Thoth commands. Instead, these parades will all line up at Napoleon and Prytania Street. The owners of Tito’s Ceviche and Pisco at 5015 Magazine were expecting the revenue from the parade-viewing crowds to help with their financial recovery from the pandemic. “Mardi Gras parades are a financial boost for us,” said Tito’s co-owner Tatiana Lock.

Viewpoint: What health risks are you willing to take during the holidays?

Semi-retired businessman Leo Marsh and his daughter Helen rose early Wednesday morning to be among the first in line to receive the city’s free Covid-19 home testing kits. “While we are both fully vaccinated, we wanted to be able to test in advance of seeing family members and friends,” said Marsh, a former AT&T executive. A limited number of kits were available at four New Orleans fire stations “in anticipation of a surge in omicron cases during the busy holiday season,” according to a city-issued press release. 

People around the world have been making difficult decisions about how they will celebrate the winter holidays. Should they continue with travel plans to visit family and friends, or should they keep their guard up and stay close to home? “An event canceled is better than a life canceled,” said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.