Thirteen days later, on March 9, Louisiana reported its first case of covid-19. Then came another, and another. Clusters broke out in several nursing homes. The cases popping up across the state were not easily linked to each other, meaning that a galloping community spread was already underway.A terrible realization began to dawn on residents and political leaders: The famous bonhomie of the world’s biggest free party may have helped supercharge one of the most rapid spreads of the coronavirus, which is now threatening to overwhelm Louisiana’s health-care system and potentially make the state one of the next epicenters.“We had people from all over the world. We also had the spread of this virus, and people did not realize it was spreading,” said Rebekah Gee, a former state health secretary now on the faculty of Louisiana State University’s medical school. “So people not only caught beads, but they caught covid-19.”As of Thursday, Louisiana had reported 2,305 cases and 83 deaths related to coronavirus — with about two-thirds of the cases and deaths in the New Orleans metro area.New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said canceling or curtailing Mardi Gras was never considered. Federal agencies that are part of planning Mardi Gras


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