NEW ORLEANS — The weeks since Mardi Gras day have been devastating for Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Several members have tested positive for coronavirus, and five have died.
Elroy James, the president of the club, said the virus is dealing a deadly blow to the organization's members.
"We have, in this month alone, we have experienced the loss of roughly five of our brothers," he said.
James says the Zulu organization knows of at least three members who died from complications caused by coronavirus, and two more members who have died were waiting for their test results because they likely had it too.
One of those members was Cornell Charles, a beloved coach and mentor to young children in athletic programs.
"Charles was a longtime member of our organization, was well respected," James said. "(He) was looked to as a strong leader. A lot of brothers in our organization are struggling with his passing."
Mayor LaToya Cantrell identified another Zulu member killed as Dr. Larry Hammond, who was Zulu King in 2007.
"It breaks my heart to mark the passing of Dr. Larry Hammond, Zulu King in 2007," Cantrell wrote on Twitter. "A vital part of our City’s rebirth after Katrina, & a culture bearer in the truest sense. We mourn his passing & all COVID victims, with a heavy heart. May he rest in peace."
Even more Zulu members are hospitalized or at home under self-quarantine orders.
"We have about 20 brothers who are hospitalized or at home under the orders of self-quarantine," James estimated.
There isn't a mandate for members to self-quarantine, but James said anybody who had contact with one of the people believed to have been infected has voluntarily isolated themselves.
Because a Zulu member had one of the earlier cases of COVID-19 to be reported in Louisiana, they were ahead of the curve, sanitizing and closing their lounge prior to the stay at home order issued for New Orleans on March 20.
James said all he can do now is listen to elected officials and urge his members to do the same.
"What I have done as president of the organization is to make sure that we walk along with our state leaders and our local leaders to make sure that we ask our brothers to stay safe, stay home," he said.