New Orleans Police Cleared Out Bourbon Street To Prevent The Spread Of The Coronavirus
Cities around the US are promising to enforce bans on large gatherings, and in some places, bars are shutting down altogether.
Police cleared out Bourbon Street in New Orleans on Saturday night after the city banned large gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Videos posted to Twitter showed police cars slowly patrolling the iconic tourist destination as an officer ordered bar crowds to avoid congregating.
"By order of the governor and the mayor, large crowds of people are prohibited from congregating together. Your actions are jeopardizing public health, and we are directing you to clear the streets and to go home or back to your hotel," the officer said. "Thank you for your cooperation."
As of Sunday, 65 people within Orleans Parish had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and two people had died. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she expected the number of cases to increase, noting the "significant" spread of the virus within the community.
On Friday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a proclamation banning all gatherings of 250 people or more, including public schools, for the next month. At a press conference with the governor, Cantrell called on people in New Orleans to use common sense and good judgment. Some businesses were voluntarily instituting new limits on the number of people allowed inside at one time, she noted.
She also said police would be responding to complaints of large groups or to people blocking streets.
"We're not going to be out counting heads," she said. "We trust that our people will follow the rules, just be good citizens. Public safety and public health remain our top priority as we move through this."
Saturday night did bring crowds to the city's French Quarter, and in a tweet, Cantrell announced that police would be enforcing the new ban.
Though public health officials have appealed to Americans to avoid crowds to slow the spread of the virus, bars were still packed in many cities over the weekend. In Boston, local TV station WCVB showed long lines of people preparing to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
The video drew attention, and bars and restaurants in South Boston agreed to close on Sunday, said state Sen. Nick Collins, who represents the traditionally Irish American neighborhood.
"We are in this together &it’s imperative now that we do all that we can to keep our communities safe."
On Sunday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that all bars and restaurants in the state would be closing as of 9 p.m. local time.
Later on Sunday, Illinois Gov J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close down from March 16 to March 30.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom also announced bars, wineries, and nightclubs would be closing, calling their functions "non-essential." Restaurants could stay open, he added, though measures to reduce capacity would be in place.
In Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that all nightclubs would be closed, while bars and restaurants would be required to keep crowding to a minimum. Gatherings of more than 250 had already been banned, Bowser said, and she clarified that restaurants would be required to limit seating to 6 people per table — with tables 6 feet apart.
Bar seating or serving standing customers would not be allowed, she said.
One DC restaurant and bar called for Bowser to go even further. In an Instagram, Reveler's Hour announced it was voluntarily closing its doors temporarily to protect guests and staff.
"We need strong governmental action to survive this pandemic with our businesses intact. That is why we are urging the mayor to #shutusdown," the post said. "Doing so properly acknowledges the scale of the current crisis and begins to make available the kind of resources our employees and businesses will require to endure this financial storm."
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday reminded bar and restaurant owners that they'd already been ordered to reduce capacity by 50% — and failing to do so would result in a police response.
The governor stopped short of ordering a shutdown of businesses, but he didn't rule it out in the future.
"Reducing density is both a social responsibility and will help protect workforces," he said. "If businesses don't voluntarily cooperate, we will consider mandatory measures."