NEW ORLEANS — Despite fears of coronavirus, state and local declarations of emergencies to deal with the pandemic and the first COVID-19 death in Louisiana, hundreds of people were celebrating St. Patrick's Day weekend in New Orleans on Saturday.
In addition to closing public schools for a month, Gov. John Bel Edwards banned organized gatherings of 250 people or more to limit the spread of coronavirus in Louisiana.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell posted on Facebook that New Orleans Police Department officers were disbanding a large gathering. The post including a screen capture image of a scene at Tracey's Bar in the Irish Channel.
While getting infected is more of a threat to the elderly and those who have existing health conditions, limiting gatherings and closing schools slows down the spread of the virus overall to protect the most vulnerable.
That's why some were upset to see how many people ignored warnings from health experts and government officials. People in bars in the French Quarter and elsewhere in New Orleans may not be practicing social distancing, endangering others they may come in contact with later.
Tracey's Bar in the Irish Channel was a popular destination during the St. Patrick's Day weekend festivities Saturday. Here's a video that demonstrated how large the crowds were.
The bar's Twitter account, @TraceysNola replied to the above post. The account said the bar was "managing all health precautions," saying that they're open for business.
In her post, the mayor said large gatherings like this endangers the entire community.
"New Orleans just had its first (COVID-19) fatality," the mayor said in her Facebook post. "Be part of the solution to slow the spread of #COVID19 #coronavirus."
New Orleans's official twitter handle, @CityOfNOLA, asked people to adhere to the ban on large gatherings in a tweet, urging them to consider the health of others
The account later acknowledged that event cancelations were frustrating but asked people to practice social distancing measures.
"Do the right thing and don't promote large gatherings," @CityOfNOLA said.
NOPD Public Information Officer Juan Barnes told WWLTV that officers dispersed the crowd at Tracey's Bar because it was an outdoor organized event that had more than 250 people.
Officers with NOPD will continue to disperse outdoor crowds of more than 250 people at events, Barnes said.
The ban on large crowds may not apply to Bourbon Street gatherings because they're not organized.