In a turn of events that should surprise absolutely no one, a New Orleans swingers convention held during the middle of a nationwide pandemic has led to at least 41 cases of the coronavirus, with officials classifying the party as a superspreader event. According to organizers, approximately 250 people attended the Naughty N’awlins event which was held inside a local hotel. The convention reportedly hosted only one-tenth of the number of attendees in past years when the country wasn't facing a deadly pandemic. But after nearly 9 months of pandemic rules, party organizers think that maybe, perhaps, this year's event was not a good idea.
Bob Hannaford, an organizer for the convention, said he has regrets about holding the event. "If I could go back in time, I would not produce this event again," he wrote in a blog post. "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."
The convention took place on November 14 and within two weeks, 41 people had reported testing positive for COVID-19. Though Hannaford does not specify whether hotel workers at the convention have contracted the virus, his post lays out in detail what protocols were put in place, which allows experts to see what went wrong (though it’s safe to say holding a gathering of this size at all was the first, and biggest, mistake).
After consulting with a doctor, rules were put in place and in order to attend the event, attendees agreed to wear masks and had to be tested for the virus beforehand, receiving either a negative test or a test that showed they had antibodies for the virus, which organizers assumed meant the person was “not contagious.” They handed out diaries to each person and asked them to document every person they spent longer than 10 minutes with, whether it was just conversing or sex, to help with contact tracing.
Hannaford describes the New Orleans swinging community as taking “progressive stands on condoms, STDs, consent, BDSM, and bisexuality,” which he felt had prepared them for navigating safety and risk in the age of COVID-19. Clearly, it did not.
In his post, Hannaford blamed “complacency,” not holding the event itself, for the spread of the virus. "In almost every case, [people] admitted to us that they were super diligent on the first two days (Wed & Thurs) and then they relaxed a little on Friday and then they said 'Fuck it, it’s our last day and many admitted that their lax effort on that final day is probably why they ended up positive," he wrote.
Despite precautions, the event was held during a country wide upswing in cases. Orleans Parish has reported more than 16,000 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic with more than 100 new cases being reported daily. “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 spokesman for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said at a news conference on Tuesday. “And when those guidelines are not adhered to, you see a spike in infections, you see a superspreader event.”
Naughty N’awlins’ website has already been updated to open registration for their 2021 event, which seems, perhaps, ill-advised.