NEW ORLEANS — With the spread of coronavirus across the country, it wasn't long until Mardi Gras in New Orleans became a talking point.
This comes after health leaders in Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas said coronavirus patients in their states recently made trips to New Orleans, where they possibly contracted the virus.
Health leaders said one person from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and two friends from Memphis, Tennessee, were in the city during Carnival Season. Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said those two patients were over the age of 40 and doing well, but it's unclear how the virus spread to them.
"My understanding is they traveled for Mardi Gras," said Haushalter. "They stayed in close contact upon return, so one could have given it to the other."
The one from Texas, just north of Houston, is only reported as 'recently' being in New Orleans, but no time frame was given. With large gatherings like Mardi Gras, some folks in the medical community said it was only a matter of time before it became a focus.
"I'm not surprised," said Dr. Susan Hassig an epidemiologist with the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Hassig, who also teaches about infectious diseases at Tulane, said she expected cases to pop up when they did, especially in the New Orleans area, since Mardi Gras was roughly two weeks ago.
"I don't think it says anything about the area. I think it says something more about the event and what large crowds can produce, which is why so many places are canceling big events," said Hassig.
Late Thursday afternoon, the city of New Orleans released the following statement about the Mardi Gras connection: "While we have not had specific contact from health officials in some of these localities regarding the referenced cases, their findings underscore the need to limit community spread and to be intentional about social distancing practices during this time."
Hassig said those practices are important and with cases in other states being connected to Mardi Gras, folks need to be mindful of any large scale event.