New Orleans Swingers Event Called 'Superspreader' After 41 COVID Cases

by Valerie Williams

Around 250 people gathered at a New Orleans hotel for a swingers convention that ended in 41 positive COVID cases

Ready or not, here comes today’s infuriating and not exactly shocking COVID-related story. A New Orleans gathering of about 250 swingers ended in a few dozen positive COVID cases. Like I said, color me surprised.

According to The Washington Post, attendees of the 2020 Naughty N’awlins swingers convention had to follow strict COVID guidelines including no dance floor for their event and wearing face masks whenever not eating or drinking. The party started on November 14th and the roughly 250 attendees were tested for COVID before arrival or had to provide proof of having antibodies against the virus. Now, just over two weeks later, 41 of them have tested positive for the novel virus.

It’s not really a surprise as the Trump White House handily proved that frequent testing doesn’t amount to a hill of beans as a person can test negative post-exposure and then test positive a few days later, contagious all the while. If a swinger was exposed to the virus just before taking the test to enter the event, it might’ve shown up negative even though they were infected. Blend a bunch of adults together who are literally there because they want to, uhhh, mingle, and there you have it.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) said through a spokesperson that the convention was a “very stark example of what can happen when you don’t obey the social distance guidelines.”

In a blog post, event organizer Bob Hannaford expressed regret. “I wouldn’t do it again if I knew then what I know now,” he wrote. “It weighs on me and it will continue to weigh on me until everyone is 100% better.”

No permit was required for the event, which was quite a lot smaller than a usual year. The organizers say they met with New Orleans officials to talk safety measures to avoid the very thing that happened in the end — a large outbreak.

In his blog post, Hannaford explains that the organizers required attendees to either present a negative test or show that they tested positive for COVID antibodies, with organizers making the assumption that it would mean they are “not contagious.” Attendees were also asked to keep written record of anyone they came into contact, sexual or not, for more than 10 minutes.

Hannaford writes that post-event, things “seemed like a big success.” And then, the positive cases started to roll in right after the convention ended. Hannaford says most cases have been mild or asymptomatic, but one was severe and required hospitalization.

Let’s also keep in mind that attendees have now come into contact with other people in their lives either at home, work, the gym, or who knows where else. While this event directly resulted in 41 COVID cases, the number stemming from the event will likely be a lot larger.

While my kids toil away doing virtual middle school, with a lack of sports, activities, and social lives, I sure am glad hundreds of adults are feeling totally fine gathering indoors. Because in case it hasn’t fully sunk in for some folks, pandemic decisions cannot be made in a vacuum. The actions you take (or don’t take) matter and have the possibility of adversely effecting entire communities — and beyond. Traveling in itself isn’t safe right now and the CDC is advising people to avoid it if possible. Mixing households for small group gatherings is helping to fuel our current surge in cases, so it’s easy to see how a gathering of 250+ individuals would become a superspreader event.

“If I thought for one minute that he or anyone would end up in the hospital, I would certainly not have had our event,” Hannaford said. Let this be a warning to anyone else thinking of attending events with hundreds of people mid-pandemic. Just… don’t.