Well, it happened today. The entire state of Louisiana is under a mandatory stay-at-home order. Governor John Bel Edwards, like many other governors, is taking action many believe should come from Washington, D.C. in the form of a national order. All reports indicate that preventing, or at least lessening, the spread of COVID-19 begins with realistic social distancing – staying apart from people on a large scale basis. For many Louisianians a major question has been when that should happen. Louisiana is currently second only to the state of Washington in the number of new cases per 100,000 residents. That is an astonishing rate of growth in numbers given when you understand that Louisiana’s first presumptive positive case was reported on March 9, 2020, just 15 days before Governor Edwards’ mandatory stay-at-home order.
Call me an alarmist but I wanted an aggressive approach when I heard of the first case. And now the greater New Orleans area has become a hotbed of coronavirus cases and deaths. We have family in the New Orleans area; we travel to there quite frequently; many of our friends, family and neighbors frequent the area as well. Available data indicates that community spread of the virus is very likely with such constant contact.
“A study out of the University of Louisiana – Lafayette shows we have the fastest growth rate in confirmed cases in the world in the first 13 days right here in Louisiana.”Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards
My alarmist nature (translation: “common sense”) said as early as the end of the first week of March that we were headed toward a much bigger problem than most expected. So much so that my wife and I anticipated the government closing the borders before the end of the month. That was serious to us because we had a family vacation scheduled near the end of March.
We were looking forward to a week on the coast of Mexico. The Riviera Maya is peaceful and enchanting almost any time of year. But we knew the trip we started planning since the end of 2018 would have to wait. A novel disease, COVID-19, changed all of that.
At first, we didn’t know COVID-19 was on course to be an outbreak. We’d heard about it but just didn’t have enough information. For us, news broadcasts weren’t as clear or consistent as they could have been. But that’s become the problem – analysis and commentary rather than unvarnished facts. Sifting through misleading or sensationalized versions of the facts is exhausting. It causes many of us to venture out on our own to get what we need to thrive in today’s America. By the end of February we knew this disease was headed for pandemic classification. The message from Washington, D. C., however, continued to be inconsistent with the threat.
As March 2020 rolled in we were all concerned about traveling – even locally after Louisiana’s first case. Surprisingly, it took a full two weeks to cancel flights, our suites and transportation between the resort and the airport. You’d think that an overwhelmed booking system would be the problem. But it wasn’t. We were able to cancel flights online within half an hour of our decision to cancel. Our resort reservations were a different story. At the end of more than a dozen calls to the resort and the booking agency, the trip was cancelled the day before our expected arrival. Why?
Much like what we’re experiencing here on a national level, Mexico seemed reluctant to mandate limits or restrictions on large gatherings and close contact in response to COVID-19. The booking agency we used told us as long as the Mexican government kept airports, hotels and resorts opened, the resorts would not reschedule or cancel. In short, social distancing was of little concern, it seems. Mexico seemed to come around when the U. S. began talks with them about closing our borders last week.
But I digress. Regardless of the locale, social distancing seems to be the one clear method of limiting the spread of COVID-19. Fifty different interpretations of what that social distancing should look like just doesn’t make sense to me.