CBS News has published disturbing images of rats invading the once bustling streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans after the city belatedly went on lock down, as the state of Lousiana over the weekend saw confirmed coronavirus case numbers explode past 3500, including 151 deaths. Most have been at the newly emerged outbreak epicenter in the south, New Orleans.
Cafes, restaurants, bars and once packed clubs have been shuttered, cutting off what's always been a steady food supply for the rodents, causing them to venture further out for food into the streets as photographs reveal.
A city-wide shelter in place order has left streets barren a mere weeks after Mardis Gras saw its average some 1.5 million outside tourists and party-goers descend on the Big Easy.
The almost unheard of shutdown of the city's businesses is “driving our rodents crazy” — in the words of to Mayor LaToya Cantrell who addressed the growing problem in a local broadcast.
Man I wish I lived in a big city— Jim Hanson (@JimHansonDC) March 29, 2020
When times get tough
Your neighbors come out to help
New Orleans rats cleaning the streets pic.twitter.com/8oUF7zMMck
The CBS report describes as follows:
New Orleans' famous Mardi Gras celebration brought thousands of tourists to the city, and medical experts believe it might be a big factor in the city's COVID-19 outbreak. Now with Bourbon Street's famous bars all closed and people social distancing, videos show dozens of rats scurrying through the empty streets.
"I turn the corner, there's about 30 rats at the corner, feasting on something in the middle of the street," Charles Marsala of New Orleans Insider Tours and AWE News told CBS News' Omar Villafranca. Marsala said he had "never" seen anything like it before.
Mayor Cantrell has recently said that "in hindsight" Mardi Gras should have been canceled, after health officials have said New Orleans' recent explosion in cases was likely due to the weeks-long festival running January 6 to February 25, which marks Fat Tuesday.
"In hindsight, if we were given clear direction, we would not have had Mardi Gras, and I would have been the leader to cancel," she said in a CNN interview last week, also blaming local decisions ultimately on "our national leader".
Meanwhile, city health officials are attempting to combat the rat infestation problem, with Claudia Riegel, executive director of the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control Board, warning residents that “there are pathogens in these rodents”.
Riegel said added, “Fortunately, we … don’t have many disease cases that are related to rodents. But the potential is there.”
“Unfortunately, with these businesses being shut down, these rats are hungry,” she said further. Part of the city's strategy is to not only control the trash problem, telling residents to not set out trash with abundance of discarded food, but to ramp up its use of rat bait and traps in commercial areas.