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City breaks up St Patrick's celebration, will 'strictly enforce' ban on big groups like Super Sunday

Following the governor's ban on gatherings of more than 250 people, NOPD officers dispersed a crowd at an Irish Channel bar Saturday to limit coronavirus spread

NEW ORLEANS — After reports of large crowds gathering in parts of New Orleans to celebrate St. Patrick's Day weekend, police officers dispersed a crowd at an Irish Channel bar to limit the spread of coronavirus and said they would continue the same enforcement Sunday.

Officers with the New Orleans Police Department were enforcing a ban issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards. Edwards declared Louisiana in a state of emergency to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, banning gatherings of 250 people or more.

NOPD said it will be strictly enforcing the ban on large gatherings, and events previously planned for this Sunday — including “Super Sunday.” The Indian groups and the Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs have confirmed they will abide by the policy and will stand down to keep people safe, a statement from the mayor's office said.

"The best tool we have for slowing the spread of the infection is to be vigilant about practicing social distancing," said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. "Respect your community, protect your neighbors, and believe the experts. Use your head, stop the spread." 

NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson also voiced his concern in the statement from the mayor's office.

“It is disappointing that some people today decided to disobey Gov. John Bel Edwards’ ban on public gatherings of 250 people or more,” 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.” 

City Council President Helena Moreno urged people to follow guidelines put in place to keep others safe from coronavirus.

"I know that these are difficult times and even confusing, but please follow guidelines set by health professionals to not attend large gatherings. All of us have a role to play to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and to help prevent exposure to vulnerable populations. We’ll get through this, but let’s all of us do our part," Moreno said.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell today issued the following statement, urging residents to abide by the governor's orders not to gather in large groups.

"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," Cantrell said. "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." 

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New Orleans City Councilman Jay H. Banks told New Orleans residents on Saturday that gatherings like the one dispersed by NOPD near Tracey's Bar in the Irish Channel were dangerous.

"New Orleans suffered its first Coronavirus death today. The threat of this virus is real and is not to be taken lightly," Banks said. "No one needs to lose their mind, but you can lose your life if you do not practice safe, sanitary actions during this period. Gatherings like the ones that happened along Magazine Street are unsafe, reckless and should not happen again."

Banks asked community leaders not to gather for Super Sunday.

"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," Banks said. "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."

Councilmember Joseph Giarrusso urged people to listen to the experts.

"When we make decisions, we need to look at data. The latest report shows Louisiana has 77 reported cases of coronavirus whereas Texas has 62. The population of Louisiana is 4.6 million, while Texas has almost 29 million. Doctors have repeatedly told us about the dangers of community spread. We all want to support the local economy, but let’s take common-sense steps to limit contact with large groups," Giarrusso said. "This is not a knee-jerk reaction but a reasoned response to what is right in front of us. It is about containing this pandemic and local outbreak."

Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer reminded people that the most vulnerable to coronavirus are loved ones.

"Your actions can help us curb the COVID-19 outbreak in New Orleans and across the state. Social distancing and avoiding large crowds drastically reduce the threat of the virus. Please remember, that we have seniors and people with chronic illnesses who are most vulnerable," Palmer said. "They are our parents, grandparents, neighbors, co-workers, and the action you take or don’t take could decide the fate of their lives."

The governor reported the first coronavirus death in Louisiana Saturday, adding that the number of presumptive positive cases in the state had jumped to 77.

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