NEW ORLEANS — Both the New Orleans Police Department and City of New Orleans tweeted Wednesday to remind people not to tailgate or gather downtown ahead of Saints games.
The warning comes four days before the team’s first game and several days after there were dozens of reports of big crowds over Labor Day weekend.
As Saints super fan Leroy Mitchell flies a Saints flag from his Mid-City balcony, he knows the season will look and sound different. For more than 20 seasons, you could hear Mitchell, aka "Whistle Monsta," inside and outside the Dome. This year with COVID-19 cases still being reported throughout the state, he is trading the tailgate and season tickets for a new 75-inch television.
“I got a smart TV and it’s not only smart, they say it’s Doogie Howser smart,” Mitchell said.
The NOPD and City of New Orleans are hoping people follow Mitchell's lead and stay home on game day, tweeting “we have to take one for the team & avoid tailgating in the downtown area.”
The Saints first game comes on the heels of Labor Day weekend when city officials responded to at least 36 calls of large gatherings.
Dr. Julio Figueroa is Infectious Diseases Chief with LSU Health. He says the infection rate in the area is between two and five percent, which means if you have 100 people at a tailgate party between two and five people could have COVID and spread it to everyone else.
“When you have people who are tailgating they are close together, they are sharing stuff, they are eating and drinking and they are probably not six feet apart,” Figueroa said. “All those things are high risk factors.”
Figueroa says we shouldn’t expect to be tailgating until there is a serious drop in cases or more likely a vaccine.
Fans staying home will undoubtedly have an impact on business in the area. Bars are already struggling, having been forced to close in phase one and phase two. Mitchell’s day job is as a payment processor, handling credit cards and payroll. He is working for fewer New Orleans’ watering holes these days.
“I hear some really sad stories, mostly the bars, you know? This is their Jazz Fest," he said. "There is nothing like it. You can ask any bar owner. When the Saints win, it’s glorious.”
Until Michell can get back to support the Saints in person -- he'll be rocking the Whistle Monsta gear from home.
“I am going to go full gear as if I was in the first row of the Superdome.”