Yanti Turang, an emergency room nurse at a New Orleans hospital, walked out into the parking lot in full protective gear early this month to meet a woman with flulike symptoms who had just returned home after a layover in South Korea. The woman was immediately taken to an isolation room.
Around the same time, a man who had never left the country and had been in New Orleans throughout the just-concluded Mardi Gras season, showed up at the E.R. with a high fever and a dry cough. He was placed in a neighboring room, and cared for by hospital workers without any special gear.
To everyone’s relief, the woman who had traveled through Asia tested positive for the standard flu. The man, however, did not, Ms. Turang said. His symptoms improving but his diagnosis unclear, he was told to take Tylenol and get some rest. And he was sent back out into the city.
Ms. Turang does not know what became of that man, but he was on her mind two days later, when the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus was announced in Louisiana — another person, at another hospital. Coronavirus had been in the city all along. Since then, the outbreak here has become one of the most explosive in the country.
According to one study, Louisiana, with more than 2,300 cases as of Thursday afternoon, is experiencing the fastest growth in new cases in the world; Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Tuesday that the current trajectory of case growth in Louisiana was similar to those in Spain and Italy. This week, President Trump approved the governor’s request for a major disaster declaration, which unlocks additional federal funding to combat the outbreak. [Continue reading…]