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Louisiana tourism looks to weather coronavirus concerns


BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — When it comes to a spreading strain of the coronavirus, Louisiana’s tourism chief says panic can be contagious, too.

State officials Tuesday confirmed a second and third presumed positive case of COVID-19 in Louisiana. The announcement furthers concerns over whether the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, also known as JazzFest, should run as planned in late April.

Lieutenant Gov. Billy Nungesser has voiced hopes to retain the event, set to go from Apr. 23 to May 3.

As of this week, the jazz fest is still on for April 23-May 3 (Photo Courtesy: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival)

“If the French Quarter Fest and JazzFest were to cancel or be delayed, that would have a drastic impact on the industry that needs those events in the New Orleans area,” Nungesser told a Baton Rouge luncheon Tuesday. “We want to support those continuing.”

Concerns over the virus have interrupted events similar to JazzFest. The Coachella and Stagecoach festivals in California are postponed until fall, while South by Southwest in Texas was canceled.

Nungesser says even if JazzFest stays on schedule, Louisiana’s tourism industry is already hurting as a result of the virus. Southwest Airlines traffic in New Orleans is down by nearly half, and three industrial conventions in the city have canceled events.

Louisiana has no plans of declaring a state of emergency, as some other states have done. At a prayer breakfast Tuesday, Edwards said a mix of facts and faith will guide the state’s response.

“Panicking if the exact opposite of faith,” the governor said. “We’re going to pray, and we’re going to believe those prayers will make a difference, because they will.”

Tourism is Louisiana’s fourth-largest industry, feeding the state nearly $19 billion and 2,600 new jobs last year.

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