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LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

New Orleans Officials Point To Increasing Spread Of COVID-19 Cases

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Photo by Emily Kask AFP via Getty Images

A man cycles along Jackson Square in New Orleans on Thursday. The city has become an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic gripping the United States.

As of noon Thursday, 46 people had died in Orleans Parish — home to New Orleans — which has a population of about 391,000. That's 11.8 deaths per 100,000 residents.

That rate is far ahead of other cities and counties in the U.S., according to data from The New York Times. King County, Wash., has the next highest rate of COVID-19 deaths per capita: 4.5. And though New York City has the highest number of deaths, 280, its rate per 100,000 people is 3.2. (Note: New York City is made up of several counties, but individual county data was unavailable.)

There are 997 known cases of COVID-19 in New Orleans — 255 per capita — making it among the highest in the U.S.

"We remain very concerned about the number of known cases of COVID-19 that we have in New Orleans," Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the New Orleans Department of Health, said in a press conference Wednesday. "What we know is that we have one of the highest infection rates behind several counties in New York City and a handful of others. ... What these numbers continue to tell us is that we have substantial community spread."

The city, which is uniquely social on an average day, just spent a whole month being extra social. Carnival season spanned the month of February and culminated with Mardi Gras on Feb. 25. Thirteen days later, the state reported its first case of COVID-19 in New Orleans.

"It turned out people were not just catching beads, they were catching COVID-19," Dr. Rebekah Gee, former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, told NPR member station WWNO on Tuesday.

Gee, now a gratis assistant professor at the Louisiana State University Schools of Public Health & Medicine, said the question of why New Orleans or New York City were hit harder than a city like Los Angeles is something for researchers to determine later, but New Orleans saw 1.4 million visitors packed into Mardi Gras parade routes just as the coronavirus was beginning to spread in the U.S.

"The conditions were right for it," she said.

Copyright 2020 WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio. To see more, visit WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio.

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