41 attendees of last month’s swingers convention in New Orleans test positive for COVID-19

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FILE – This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WDSU) – The owner of a company that hosted a swingers convention in New Orleans last month said 41 of the roughly 300 attendees were diagnosed with COVID-19 following the event.

Naughty Events owner Bob Hannaford told WDSU all city and state protocols were “met or exceeded” during the four-day convention that started in the downtown area on Nov. 11, the day Phase 3.3 began. Phase 3.3 included the laxest COVID-19 restrictions in the city of New Orleans since the pandemic reached the city.

New Orleans Communications Director Beau Tidwell said Tuesday that the event last month was not permitted, and that the city has discouraged all large gatherings since the pandemic began.

“We tried our best to create a bubble, but it’s very difficult,” Hannaford told WDSU.

The positive cases popped up amid a national spike, Hannaford noted. New Orleans ramped down to Phase 2 starting Nov. 25, following tighter restrictions put in place statewide by Gov. John Bel Edwards in response to a spike in infections.

Hannaford said if he had a “magic time machine” then “maybe we probably wouldn’t have done it.” He doesn’t regret hosting the event, however, because he thought he made the best choices based on the information he had at the time.

A group of eight attendees who tested positive did not engage in sexual activity of the partners they came with, he said, but may have been exposed at a bar.

About half of the attendees wore wristbands to indicate either they had already been infected with COVID-19, or that they showed paperwork to prove they had tested negative within three days of the convention, he said.

Hannaford said he thinks a swingers convention makes for an “easy target” for criticism because it involves sex. The bars where attendees patronized, he said, thanked the organizers for the business, explaining how much they had been struggling.

Hannaford, a New Orleans resident since 1996, said the next swingers convention in the city is scheduled for August.

If the novel coronavirus is not yet under control by then, he may cancel, “but we’ll also be out of business.”

Hannaford said attendees kept logs of people they had close contact with, and the company is facilitating contact tracing to curb spread of the virus in attendees’ respective communities.

Most of the 41 attendees had mild or no symptoms, Hannaford wrote in his blog. One attendee was hospitalized but has since returned home.

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