As tourists and locals have left the streets of New Orleans deserted, rats have quickly taken their place.
With restaurants and bars closed for business, a once reliable food supply for the rodents has all of a sudden been shut off.
Food waste is no longer being discarded on the streets or into nearby trash cans which means the rats have to forage further for food.
With New Orleans under a Stay in place order the city’s rodent population has swarmed streets in the French Quarter section
As restaurants closed save for take-out service, far less food waste is being discarded in the city’s alleyways, driving the local rodent population out into the open to search for scraps
The local rodent population can now be seen out and about as they search for scraps so survive.
Along the Crescent City’s famous Bourbon Street, its bars and music venues are all closed to comply with social distancing rules.
‘I turn the corner, there’s about 30 rats at the corner, feasting on something in the middle of the street,’ one local restaurant owner told CBS News.
Video shows dozens of rats scurrying through the empty streets.
The rats have been forced to surface in order to find whatever scraps they can
The city says it’s ramping up its use of rat bait in commercial areas, starting with rat traps on the sidewalks and bait into the catch basins on Bourbon Street
Extermination crews have now begun to leave poisoned bait in the gutters along with rat traps in an effort to curb pests.
‘There are pathogens in these rodents. Fortunately, we don’t see many of the health outcomes. We don’t have very many disease cases that are actually related to rodents. But the potential is there,’ New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said during a press conference.
There are now concerns that any diseases being carried by the rats could spread to the local homeless population who have already been out on the streets for some time.
The normally bustling tourist mecca of Bourbon Street lies deserted in the early afternoon during shelter in place orders to slow the spread of coronavirus disease
A man walks past a closed Cafe Du Monde, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, normally bustling with tourists, but now nearly completely deserted due to the new coronavirus
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards stating Thursday during a press conference that if the state does not flatten its infection rate curve soon, New Orleans could run out of ventilators as early as April 2, and potentially be out of hospital beds by April 7.
‘It’s not conjecture, it’s not some flimsy theory, this is not a scare tactic, this is what is going to happen,’ he said, according to CBS News.
Edwards said that coronavirus cases have spread across Louisiana and that ‘There is no place where it isn’t. There are places where we haven’t detected it yet.’
On Thursday, Cantrell blasted President Trump for not taking the pandemic seriously, saying the city was given ‘no red flag’ from federal agencies to cancel its February 25 Mardi Gras celebrations which are being blamed for making Louisiana the future US epicenter for coronavirus.
In an interview with CNN, Cantrell placed the blame for the potentially fatal celebrations going ahead at President Trump’s door, saying he should have warned the city to cancel the festivities and that agency guidance follows the ‘response of our national leader.’
‘Well, you know that the city of New Orleans as it relates to Mardi Gras, we plan Mardi Gras as a year-long effort. Around a part of our unified command is the federal government. Homeland Security, as well as the FBI,’ Cantrell said.
‘So in reaching out, meaning my health directors and public safety officials, every step of the way consulted with federal partners as well as the CDC in reference to COVID-19.’
She said the federal government partnered the city in running the celebrations ‘every step of the way’ and no ‘red flags’ were issued in the run up.
‘No red flags were given. So absolutely, we moved forward,’ she said.
The mayor slammed the president for not taking the deadly virus seriously enough as cases started to mount across America.
‘When it’s not taken seriously at the federal level, it’s very difficult to transcend down to the local level in making these decisions,’ she said.
Cantrell admitted that ‘in hindsight’ Mardi Gras should never have gone ahead: ‘In hindsight, if we were given clear direction, we would not have had Mardi Gras, and I would have been the leader to cancel.’
Cantrell told Fox 8 on Saturday that ‘On Lundi Gras, we were hearing from the federal government that the virus was contained,’ she said, speaking about the day before Mardi Gras.
She added that the city did cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade as the pandemic escalated around the US by this date.
New Orleans plans to move 3,000 patients out of the hospital and into a field medical facility at the Morial Convention center to make way for others who need emergency care.
Cantrell said that she and Edwards are still trying to figure out how the $180billion federal dollars promised to Louisiana will be implemented so they can get resources allocated.
Worrying parallels are being drawn between the Mardi Gras and the 1918 parade in Philadelphia which has been touted as one of the main causes for the state’s spread of Spanish Flu, which devastated the area more than most and cost 16,000 lives in Philadelphia and wiped out about a third of the world’s population.
In 1918, when World War I was coming to a close, US cities held Liberty Loan parades bringing in thousands of revellers.
When the Spanish Flu pandemic ramped up, St. Louis canceled its parade but Philadelphia decided to plough on with its celebration in the city of 1.7 million people.
The virus had reached Philadelphia on September 19, 1918, infecting 600 sailors within a matter of days.
The parade took place on September 28, with 200,000 people in attendance.
Just three days later, there were 635 new cases in Philadelphia and every bed in the city’s hospitals was filled, according to UPenn.
Six weeks later, 12,000 people had died and there were 47,000 cases.
By the end of the pandemic, at least 16,000 had died and more than half a million had fallen ill.
By contrast, Saint Louis’ death toll reached 700.
The CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine said the Philadelphia parade shows how cancelling mass gatherings and practising social distancing can be critical to slowing an outbreak and saving thousands of lives.
‘This deadly example shows the benefit of canceling mass gatherings and employing social distancing measures during pandemics,’ the CDC said.