In 1994, the Young Leadership Council (YLC), a civically active group of young professionals in New Orleans, launched a public relations campaign to reinvigorate enthusiasm for the city of New Orleans and its residents and ex-pats. Titled “New Orleans, Proud to Call it Home”, the slogan was printed on posters and bumper stickers. Energetic volunteers stood at busy intersections waving signs and asking drivers to honk in agreement. The slogan was brought back in 2010 to raise morale after the hard fought recovery from Hurricane Katrina. New Orleanians worked hard to bring back the city and to improve its government.
Today I am experiencing my first true “Proud to Call it Home” moment in New Orleans. I was in love with the city when I moved here from Manhattan nine and a half years ago. I’ve volunteered for countless non-profit fundraisers, served on a charter school board, and chair a citizen advocacy organization. And now I have my first homegrown moment to feel pride for my adopted hometown.
You may not know it, but New Orleans has crushed our Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. We didn’t just flatten the curve, we nearly killed it. The rate of new reported cases has been below 50 per day for almost four weeks. We were an early hotspot in the U.S., and we took a lot of unfair criticism for not cancelling Mardi Gras at the end of February – a time that predates any cancellations or closures in this country.
Here's cases rolling over 7 days in Orleans Parish. With over 800 tests per day coming back and a 1-3% false positive rate it's plausible that there's not much more room to go down. pic.twitter.com/t2paLbwOPZ
— Jeff Asher (@Crimealytics) May 17, 2020
We were hit hard, with a per capita infection and death rates among the top 10 in the nation. But our Mayor and Governor acted fast, cancelling large scale events, closing schools, businesses, and issuing stay-at-home orders within days of identifying the first few cases.
And New Orleanians complied.
We have a history with disaster, and we know orders to shut down Bourbon Street are not issued lightly. We stayed home, but we didn’t lose our connections to each other. Board meetings, including those of public bodies, immediately shifted to Zoom. Chefs who could not justify the expense of staying open for takeout service sold pre-made foods in the grocery store. Friends took socially distant walks in the park where small groups chatted from spaced out camping chairs. We “Jazz Fested in Place” together during the two weeks we should have been grooving together at the Fair Grounds.
When the Mayor and Director of Public Health told us to wear masks, we began to sew and create our own. On my rare ventures out in public, I see almost everyone wearing a mask, particularly inside. On May 15, the eve of our Phase 1 reopening, New Orleanians drove less than residents of any other major city in America.
According to Apple's mobility reports there's no big city in America that drove less than New Orleans on 5/15 relative to its baseline on Jan 13. pic.twitter.com/QTGgTPtB00
— Jeff Asher (@Crimealytics) May 17, 2020
Our Mayor leads by example in addition to words. Early on, she moved her press conferences outside, where reporters could spread out further and everyone was safer from the risk of infection. She wears a mask until she approaches the podium to speak. The communication from her administration is clear and concise. As we move to Phase 1 of our reopening, she calls it “Safest at Home”. We know that even though low risk businesses are reopening, we should limit our interactions with people outside our household – a group she calls our “Phase 1 Crew”.
The messaging from our city leaders is so helpful and clear. Who’s in your Phase 1 crew? https://t.co/0lNZEzjQ0g
— Blair H duQuesnay (@BlairHduQuesnay) May 15, 2020
Over the past few weeks, my husband and I have often remarked that we feel safer in New Orleans than we would in most places in the country. We have watched the number of new infections go down, even as testing goes up. This is confidence we need to get our economy going again. I fear that residents in other cities and states may not have the same sense of security. We know that Covid-19 will be with us for a while, and that we will have to learn to live with the risk. But right now, there’s no place I’d be prouder to call home than New Orleans.