NEW ORLEANS – As the clock struck midnight on March 14, a day many in New Orleans had long bookmarked for a city-wide St. Patrick’s Day celebration and parade, NOPD officers cleared revelers from Bourbon Street to enforce a ban on large gatherings.
The move came on the heels of a similar breakup of a large crowd gathered outside Tracy’s, an Irish bar on Magazine Street.
In both instances, NOPD officers were enforcing an rule banning gatherings of more than 250 people that was put forth by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards as coronavirus cases increase across the state.
March 14 was also the day the first death from the coronavirus was reported in Louisiana.
“I was deeply disappointed this afternoon by the individuals who chose to ignore the sober warnings of our public health officials and the proclamation issued by the Governor,” Mayor Cantrell said in a statement just after police broke up the crowd at Tracy’s. “At the same time we were learning the sad news regarding the first fatality in our state, certain individuals were flouting the public health protocols and actively increasing the danger to their neighbors and their loved ones. This is unacceptable. The best tool we have for slowing the spread of the infection is to be vigilant about practicing social distancing. Respect your community, protect your neighbors, and believe the experts. Use your head, stop the spread.”
Twitter users posted pictures and videos of marked NOPD units rolling down Bourbon Street to disperse the crowds, a sight typically reserved for midnight on Mardi Gras Day.
“It is disappointing that some people today decided to disobey Gov. John Bel Edwards’ ban on public gatherings of 250 people or more,” NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said. “Such large gatherings are a public health risk as we try to slow the spread of COVID-19. The NOPD will continue to enforce the ban as public safety is our top priority.”
New Orleans City Council members joined with Cantrell and Ferguson to stress the importance of staying safe and staying away from large crowds.
“New Orleans suffered its coronavirus death today. The threat of this virus is real and is not to be taken lightly. No one needs to lose their mind, but you can lose your life if you don’t practice safe sanitary actions during this period,” District B Councilmember Jay H. Banks said. “Gatherings like the ones that happened along Magazine Street are unsafe, reckless and should not happen again. I am asking all of our culture bearers and all of those who love and support them to please not gather tomorrow. Super Sunday will happen when it is safe to do so. Please do not jeopardize your life, your family’s lives, or any others that you may come in contact with by participating in large gatherings. It’s just not worth it. Please pay attention to the warnings from all of the official sites and keep you and your families safe. We are all in this together and we will all get through it together.”