NEW ORLEANS — The coronavirus shut-downs come at a horrible time for the hospitality and tourism industry here in New Orleans.

Most servers, bartenders, tour guides, hotel staff, performers, and drivers thought they'd have at least another few months of the busy season before the summer heat settles in.

Now, tens of thousands of people are virtually unemployed and some, are facing exceptional challenges.

For each closed sign on a restaurant or bar in New Orleans, there are around a dozen people like server Christy Patton.

"Most of us aren't qualifying for unemployment. Most of us aren't getting half of what we made, if we do. And we don't have health insurance anymore. We don't have anything to fall back on," said Patton. She's worried about contracted workers

Patton picked up her last paycheck Friday. She, and at least 80-thousand hospitality workers in New Orleans, had the rug pulled out from under them this week.

Many contract workers, like security personnel, musicians, and performers, don't meet the qualifications for unemployment.

But for Patton, there's an exceptional challenge. Her four and a half year old daughter, Maya, is fighting leukemia.

Treatments are not inexpensive, and with a suppressed immune system, she's susceptible to any virus.

"Just bringing her into the bank for like five minutes is not safe. Like, I have a mask for her. We have hand sanitizer, but that's only like 75 percent safe," said Patton.

Even though she missed out on parades, Maya spent a week in the hospital around Mardi Gras fighting a weaker strain of the coronavirus.
And although her family has always been careful, the new coronavirus sweeping the world has Maya's mom on high alert.

"People washing their hands and using hand sanitizer, that's been a part of my life, just because of my daughter, for a long time," said Patton. "But anything that I do really, is just a risk."

The city is trying to mitigate the spread of the virus, too.

Although, the eerie emptiness of the French Quarter, one of New Orleans' biggest economic engines, has many fearing what's next for tens of thousands of workers.

"It's terrifying. Like, I'm really worried about homelessness. I'm worried about addiction rates skyrocketing and people relapsing. I'm worried about mental health issues, you know, going through the roof," said Patton.

Patton supplements her income making art and skincare products.

You can learn more about her work on her Instagram page, @sabbathwolfe or her website, sabbathwolfe.com

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