Authorities in New Orleands say a swingers convention where more than 40 people tested positive for coronavirus is now considered a “superspreader” event.
The gathering – named “Naughty in N’awlins” – was held from 11 November to 14 November with more than 250 participants. But a little more than two weeks later, 41 of the participants have now tested positive for Covid-19.
Naughty in N’awlins took place even as Louisiana was witnessing a major spike in coronavirus cases, albeit at a significantly reduced scale to previous years. About 2,000 people attended in 2019, and roughly 250 made the trip this year, according to local news website NOLA.com.
A spokesman for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell told the Washington Post that the swingers event was a “very stark example of what can happen when you don’t obey the social distance guidelines".
Joshua Michaud, an epidemiologist at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told NOLA.com that the swingers convention was “a metaphor for the US as a whole".
"We’ve just grown more complacent, despite the fact that we know that there’s more virus circulating now than there ever has been,” he said.
The organisers initially vouched for the safety parameters in the event.
But Bob Hannaford, the organiser, wrote a long blogpost on Friday admitting organisational failures and regretting his decision to go forward with the event. He also confirmed that one person was hospitalised in a serious condition, after being infected.
"If I could go back in time, I would not produce this event again," Mr Hannaford wrote. “I wouldn’t do it again if I knew then what I know now. It weighs on me and it will continue to weigh on me until everyone is 100 per cent better,” he wrote.
In his blogpost, Mr Hannaford said his event had strict criteria for letting people in. He said half of the attendees had tested positive for antibodies and were believed to be “non-contagious”. Several others were tested before the event and people were given wrist bands for identification.
Despite these measures, Mr Hannaford wrote, he started getting text messages and emails the day after the event from attendees informing the organisers of positive tests.
Louisiana has reported over 241,000 cases so far, with the biggest daily increase of 5,326 coming on 1 December.