Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Advocate on the historic pace of the coronavirus vaccine development process:
The pandemic is still raging, but now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine and doses are being administered, there is hope that we are nearing the end.
The coronavirus has killed far too many people. It has destroyed too many livelihoods. But by the summer we may be mostly done with it. People who believe in a higher power should pray and give thanks.
We are living through something historic this year, and in Louisiana we’ve felt the brutal wave of history in personal and private ways. New Orleans was of course an early hotspot, with the extra irony that Mardi Gras, that most joyous time, was likely a cause of extra suffering. This spring, our small towns watched helpless as the virus crept in. Soon a friend was infected, then another, then it was in the local old folks’ home.
We lost some of our brightest stars and kindest hearts, people like April Dunn of Baton Rouge, a tireless advocate for people with disabilities. Last week we lost Carol Sutton, a New Orleans actress known for mesmerizing performances and a love of her hometown.
The coronavirus isn’t history yet but there’s already plenty to learn.
One thing is how foolish we can be — together, as a species. Many still refuse to wear a mask. Too many have crowded together for a graduation party or snuck into a late-night bar to shirk the rules. It was and still is hard to be apart. But when our grandchildren learn how we acted they won’t view maskless barhopping as liberty-loving patriotism. With the clarity of time they’ll see it for what it is. Madness.
Another thing we ought to learn is how brilliant we can be. In a little more than the length of a major-league baseball season, scientists have invented and proved the efficacy of vaccines to end a global pandemic. In any other era in all the history of the world this would have been inconceivable.
Reasonable people will call it a miracle. It isn’t. It is the achievement of a society that for all its brokenness can still do great things. Our universities produce researchers that make groundbreaking discoveries, our hospitals train nurses that care for the sick at great personal risk, our elections elevate just enough competent leaders to pull us through. There are still honest working men and women who show up every day to stock grocery shelves and clean COVID-19 wards. We ought to offer them a great deal more respect.
As a people, we can be wretched and magnificent; greedy and magnanimous; cruel and unbelievably, unreasonably, unshakably kind. What this pandemic shows us is that we can still choose what we want to be. We can find ways to care for each other, to think rationally, to do the difficult and selfless things. There is a lot of work ahead. People are hurting terribly. Economies are destroyed. Evictions are coming. More will die.
But we can still make it through. To discover that again about ourselves is the miracle.
The Houma Courier on canceling Mardi Gras for 2021:
Thibodaux Mayor Tommy Eschete last week canceled the city’s Mardi Gras parades for 2021 to limit the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus. Officials should do the same in the rest of Lafourche and Terrebonne.
With more than 30 parades combined, the two parishes host the largest Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S. outside New Orleans, so canceling is a tough decision. But it is the right one.
Putting tens of thousands of people in the streets over two weeks of parades greatly increases the airborne spread of the coronavirus, not just among spectators but among krewe members. Mardi Gras, with its drinking, crowded streets and paradegoers jostling for beads and other trinkets, is not conducive to wearing COVID face masks or staying six feet away from others. It’s a giant party, which is one reason so many people enjoy the celebration. It’s hard to imagine any scenario that could take the party out of the party, and who would really want to anyway?
William “Chip” Riggins Jr., regional medical director for the state Health Department, put it more eloquently last week in a discussion with the Terrebonne Parish Council. Riggins said he had heard of other areas considering ways to modify the parades, but as far as he knew, no one had come up with a way to do it safely.
“The ability to maintain social distancing and to remain masked in that environment is largely lost,” Riggins said.
For those who still need convincing, here are a few other reasons it makes sense to cancel Mardi Gras 2021:
— New Orleans and Thibodaux have already canceled parades, increasing the chance that people from there and other areas will flock to Terrebonne or elsewhere in Lafourche for their celebrations. That would not only increase the chance paradegoers would infect each other but that they would take the virus home with them, spreading it to other communities.
— New Orleans’s Mardi Gras celebration in February did just that. Amid national criticism, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said city officials would have canceled Mardi Gras if they had known the pandemic had reached New Orleans. State health officials later confirmed the celebration helped spread the virus across the state and nation, leaving Louisiana with one of the worst COVID crises in the U.S. as the pandemic took hold in March.
— Louisiana, including Houma-Thibodaux, reverted a couple of weeks ago to stricter Phase 2 COVID restrictions as cases, hospitalizations and deaths rose to some of their highest levels in months. The state, including Terrebonne and Lafourche, have sacrificed jobs and disrupted schooling and social connections to drive down infection rates from some of the highest in the U.S. Staging parades, balls and tableaux -- the latter also warrant cancellation -- threatens that progress. And that could not only cause unnecessary death and suffering but result in some of the same business shutdowns and more-restrictive living arrangements that have already caused so much distress.
— Louisiana has received its first 39,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine, destined to go to health care workers as early as this weekend. But the vaccines will not come in time to make Mardi Gras any safer. State officials say it will take months to make the shots widely available. And health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, say it could take until next fall or the end of 2021 to achieve the herd immunity necessary to get to some semblance of normality. And that assumes 75% to 80% of the U.S. population is vaccinated by summer. Any less will extend the time it takes to reach normal.
The final decisions on Mardi Gras 2021 now rest with local parish presidents and mayors. The best decision is to cancel, an action that ensures more residents will be able to celebrate Mardi Gras for years to come.