Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on celebrating Mardi Gras during the pandemic year:
In announcing that she was closing her city’s bars for the final weekend of Carnival, Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans said she would “rather be accused of doing too much than doing too little.”
It won’t be difficult to find people who think the mayor is doing too much. Start with the bar owners and workers who just lost their first chance for a big sales weekend in about a year.
The mayor will shut down all of the bars in New Orleans from Friday to Ash Wednesday. That includes the many bars that have received conditional use permits to operate as restaurants during the pandemic.
Liquor sales will be banned in the French Quarter.
The mayor is also closing Bourbon Street to vehicles and pedestrians, and loitering is banned on Bourbon Street, Frenchmen Street and on North Claiborne Avenue under Interstate 10.
We respect that the pandemic has forced political leaders to make choices they could never have imagined, weighing the devastation of a health crisis against the devastation of an economic crisis.
Cantrell has done a good job protecting her city. She was bold in canceling St. Patrick’s Day activities last year — and even her critics will concede that she turned out to be right.
We disagree with those who would blame the mayor for the full array of economic pain in her city. Shutdowns have done some harm, but also some good. Moreover, it’s naive to think that New Orleans’ tourism economy would be buzzing if only the government had kept out of the way.
Those conventions of podiatrists or programmers or plumbers were still going to be canceled, destination weddings would be put off, family vacations postponed.
Visitors won’t be coming back in full force until vaccines are fully deployed and the public is confident that they worked. That’s true everywhere in Louisiana.
But you can’t shut down a whole city and a whole celebration, and the likely outcome will be to move the festivities to other parts of the Quarter and the liquor-buying to other parishes. Nearby businesses and parishes need to protect their own residents by enforcing state and local health guidelines.
The enthusiasms of Mardi Gras 2020 have been blamed for New Orleans’ misfortune as an early coronavirus hot spot. And nobody wants a repeat of that in 2021, but our people have learned a lot over the past year about the disease and who is vulnerable. Throughout the year of COVID-19, large crowds have gathered, for civil rights demonstrations and Trump rallies. People have learned to make their own decisions about the perils of infection.
Our community has done a lot to reinvent Carnival in ways that are safe and socially distant. There are house floats and stationary parades and Mardi Gras for All Y’all, our online Carnival celebration that features a parade of local celebrities.
But some will want to party, and shutting down some business and some streets won’t stop them. It will chiefly harm the nearby businesses and drive customers elsewhere.
The Houma Courier and The Daily Comet on avoiding additional coronavirus shutdowns:
After a year of death and disruption, one of the most ineffective and incongruous responses to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic persists.
Many people continue to insist that governments ease restrictions on social gatherings and business activity aimed at keeping the highly contagious virus under control.
But many of those same people fail to take the most basic steps health experts have recommended consistently — wear masks in public, avoid large gatherings and stay at least six feet away from others.
So those who fail to take such actions reduce the likelihood of getting what many say they want: freedom to socialize and do business without government-imposed COVID restrictions.
A June study by Goldman Sachs Research suggests a nationwide mask mandate could stave off stay-at-home orders and other restrictions that subtracted 5% from the nation’s gross domestic product during the first few months of 2020.
“What we show in the report is that one alternative to these lockdowns is to increase the use of face masks,” Jan Hatzius, the firm’s chief economist, said in a video accompanying the report. “Face masks are very effective in reducing virus spread that would bring down, by our estimates, the growth rate of confirmed virus cases significantly and reduce the need for what otherwise would be a significant hit to the economy.”
Put simply, if you’re still not wearing a mask — or are wearing one over your mouth but not your nose — you are part of the problem. You are helping to prolong the government-imposed closures, unemployment and shutdowns. And you are increasing the chance that you or others could become ill or die from COVID-19.
At this point, it would be reasonable to expect the tragic death toll alone would be persuasive enough to encourage people to make the simple, basic sacrifices health officials have suggested since the pandemic began. Combined, nearly 400 people in Terrebonne and Lafourche have died from the virus. Statewide, the death toll has exceeded 9,000. That’s more than quadruple the population of Golden Meadow and nearly four times the population of Chauvin.
Last week, two Lafourche elementary schools, based on state health officials’ advice, switched some or all of their students to online learning because of coronavirus outbreaks. In Terrebonne, H.L. Bourgeois High did the same, forcing the school’s boys’ and girls’ soccer teams to forfeit playoff appearances that most of these young athletes have worked years to achieve.
Meanwhile, state health officials say new, more-contagious strains of the virus are beginning to take off in Louisiana.
Vaccines are rolling out slowly, but they are not yet available at the widespread rate it will take to bring the virus under control. Health experts suggest 70% to 80% of a state, nation or community’s population will need to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity. So it will be important that everyone get the shot when they qualify and it is made available. In the meantime, let’s follow the basic mask and social-distancing guidelines and shorten -- rather than lengthen -- the time it takes get back to some sense of normalcy.