New Orleans Health Department Director Issues Statement Regarding Apparent Clusters of COVID-19 Cases in Orleans Parish

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June 20, 2020

Contact: LaTonya Norton

For Media Inquiries Only
(504) 658-4962

New Orleans Health Department Director Issues Statement Regarding Apparent Clusters of COVID-19 Cases in Orleans Parish

NEW ORLEANS — Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno issued the following statement today about apparent clusters of cases of COVID-19 in Orleans Parish: 


[Watch the press conference with Dr. Avegno here.]


"As you know, the New Orleans Health Department, in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Health, is investigating apparent clusters of cases of COVID-19 in Orleans Parish. The two separate clusters are related to a New Orleans high school graduation party and a large, non-physically distant gathering at a bar outside the parish. Both clusters appear to be affecting young people who are Orleans Parish residents. We feel that it is critically important to communicate the risk that large gatherings place to the public.


"As additional information is gathered on these clusters, the City is urging all residents, especially young people, to take immediate precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Activities that pose the highest risk for transmission are large, uncontrolled gatherings like those that take place at a party or bar. These activities can fuel a rapid rise in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. This is why there are strict gathering size and capacity limitations for planned events in the State of Louisiana and Orleans Parish. When individuals participate in high-risk activities, not only can they become sick, but they can also transmit the virus to their loved ones who may be at higher risk for severe illness or death.


"If you have taken part in a non-physically distant gathering without masks or proper precautions, the New Orleans Health Department urges you to quarantine for 14 days and to get tested if you are concerned about exposure. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, please isolate yourself and cooperate with contact tracers when they call you. Provide them with full details about the people with whom you have been in close contact who may have also contracted the virus. Your actions can prevent both future deaths and new restrictions on activities. 


"We have also heard that individuals and groups are using short term rentals to attempt to have private parties that may violate gathering size, masks, or other restrictions clearly spelled out by the State and City proclamations. Let me be clear: Individuals who host such parties and owners that allow rentals put themselves at risk of enforcement and, more importantly, of promoting the spread of a known deadly disease. Right now our fatality rate of known cases is stubbornly stuck at 7%. If you are planning a party for 100 people, look around and decide which 7 of them you would be comfortable sentencing to death. The myth that young people can’t get sick is untrue – and more importantly, they can easily spread it to loved ones and contacts who are at much higher risk.


"There is also a misconception that this is a disease only affecting communities of color. It is true that our black and Hispanic residents have faced a disproportionate burden of disease and death so far, and eliminating those inequities remains a focus of the City and Health Department response. But, if you are white and privileged, COVID-19 is still coming for you, and to act irresponsibly because you think you may be safe is unconscionable during a pandemic.


"In recent days, the NOHD has seen an increase in the percent of positive tests results at its mobile testing sites around New Orleans. This is another concerning indicator that community spread may be increasing. Statewide, there are also alarming increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. If trends continue, we may need to go back to more serious restrictions on activity.  


"This Father’s Day weekend, we urge residents to be mindful and protect loved ones by not taking unnecessary risks. Wear face coverings in public, stay at least six feet apart, wash hands regularly, disinfect surfaces, and avoid large, uncontrolled gatherings. 

Code Enforcement and New Orleans Police Department officials will continue to actively enforce the Phase Two guidelines outlined by the City of New Orleans and the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Residents are urged to call 311 to report large, uncontrolled gatherings or businesses that are not complying with physical distancing and masking regulations.


"The majority of our citizens have worked too hard for the past three months to go back due to a few bad actors. Please, New Orleans, let’s take care of each other and act accordingly."


More information about Phase Two and how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is available at


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