Virus Outbreak-Louisiana

In this May 20, 2020 file photo, a bar is boarded-up at a Bourbon Street intersection in New Orleans' French Quarter. New Orleans will let the good times roll in casinos and bars again beginning Saturday, with restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Kevin McGill, file)

For the past four months, I’ve been living at home in New Orleans, following stay-at-home orders and only leaving my house for basic necessities: groceries, exercise and health-related appointments. It feels like every conversation I have now is about how I can't wait to be out of quarantine, how good it will feel to "get back to normal."

It’s understandable. People, myself included, are becoming restless — humans are social creatures and the months of isolation and social distancing have certainly taken their toll on the mental health and well-being of many.  

Like many other Louisiana residents, I felt elated on May 15 when Governor John Bel Edwards moved Louisiana into Phase 1 of reopening. Finally, things would start getting back to normal, right? 

As Louisiana moved into Phase 2 on June 5, restaurants, gyms and more businesses opened to fifty percent capacity, while other less essential businesses, such as bars and other social gathering spots, just started reopening. Unfortunately, still, I’ve noticed many people have pushed aside their fear of contracting COVID-19 entirely, going out in public with little to no precaution at all.

I saw stenciled graffiti reading “corona is a lie” plastered throughout Esplanade Avenue in MidCity. I watched cashiers handling cash and change without gloves or sanitizer. Every time I head to the grocery store, I see more and more people without masks. At the most critical moment when we could see a resurgence of cases, people have stopped caring.

In Phase 2, residents are still encouraged to work remotely if possible and to wear a face mask whenever in public, according to the follow up statement released on June 4, but fewer limitations will be in place to encourage economic growth. Louisiana is reopening to preserve its economy, not because the virus has disappeared or become less of a threat. 

Supporting local businesses and regaining economic stability is important for our community, but blatantly ignoring CDC guidelines and recommendations for safe interpersonal interactions will only set us back.

Louisiana has over 40,000 reported cases and over 2,000 deaths, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. If we continue to lower our guard, we will undoubtedly see a huge spike in cases and fatalities. As we approach hurricane season, it's important now more than ever to be cautious to prevent overwhelming emergency services or spreading the virus even further during an evacuation.

There has to be a balance between physical and mental well-being. Whether sitting on a friend’s front lawn or having a social distanced picnic in City Park, I am constantly reminded by the six feet between us and the muffled sound of my own voice by a face mask that there is currently no vaccine, no cure. 

Delivering groceries to at-risk friends or family members, exercising, supporting local businesses by getting takeout, even socially distanced hangouts, are valid reasons to "break quarantine," but going out just because you’re bored isn’t justifiable. Don’t put yourself or others at risk just for an Instagram pic of you laying on a crowded beach getting sunburned and drinking White Claw.

Marie Plunkett is a 21-year-old Classical Studies major from New Orleans, Louisiana. 

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