The convention, which is called Naughty N'awlins, was held in what the organizers called a smaller, COVID-safe event space after conducting virtual events for six months. Event organizers have revealed that at least 41 people who attended have since tested positive for the virus, prompting city officials to designate it with its "superspreader" status.
Event organizer Bob Hannaford wrote a blog post that he shared last Friday, telling attendees that his team went to "extraordinary measures" to ensure the safest possible event. He spoke with city and state officials, introduced a touchless check-in process, encouraged social distancing, required masks in public, utilized temperature checks for each guest, and provided extensive sanitization. He added that 50 percent of attendees tested positive for antibodies of COVID-19, which means they might've already had it prior to the event. While he believed that his team was hosting the "safest possible" event, it's now clear that wasn't the case.
Just a week after the event, Hannaford received countless emails from attendees revealing they had since tested positive for COVID. There was estimated to be between 250-300 attendees, although Hannaford stressed that "most" of the cases so far have been either asymptomatic or mild. One attendee, however, has been hospitalized in serious condition. The Louisiana Health Department and Hannaford have yet to reveal if more attendees have tested since.
"When we ask people to maintain social distance, when we ask people to obey the public health guidelines, there's a reason for that," a spokesperson for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said this week. "This is a very stark example of what happens when you don't obey the law."
Hannford went on to explain he had encouraged attendees to keep diaries of whom they had interacted with during the convention, sex or otherwise. As of right now, these diaries are being used to help contact tracing efforts. "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% better," he added. "We won't have another big event until next August, providing a vaccine is available and we have turned the corner on this pandemic."