We'll go along to get along
Power Poll members support cancelling parades, wearing masks, taking vaccine
By and large, members of The Times-Picayune Power Poll are a cautious lot. They:
- Support cancelling 2021 Mardi Gras season parades because of uncertainty over the coronavirus
- Are willing to wear face masks for another 100 days
- Look forward to getting inoculated - but would not pay good cash money to jump the line for vaccinations.
That's what we found in this week's survey, amid moves to scrap or postpone parades in Jefferson and Orleans parishes, President-elect Joe Biden's call for 100 days of masking and the prospect of COVID-19 inoculations.
Four out of five respondents said we should not have parades.
"If Mardi Gras was the ultimate superspreader for our community [in early 2020] and the pandemic is at its worst level yet, we would be beyond stupid to have Mardi Gras in early 2021," said Kingsley House CEO Keith Liederman.
"Let's just admit 2020/early 2021 is a washout and start planning to resume our lives as close to normal as possible after the vaccine brings this pandemic under control," said Keith Esparros, WWL television news director.
And it's not like we'll go catatonic. "Within the guidelines of social distancing for a healthier and safer community, the people of New Orleans will find alternate ways, such as the Krewe of House Floats, to celebrate Mardi Gras," said Betsie Gambel, president of Gambel Communications. "Our creativity has always contributed to our resilience."
Biden's plea for 100 more days of masking was more divisive but still drew 66 percent support.
"People who refuse to mask are a huge part of the problem. [President Donald] Trump's sick theatrics have fueled this mentality," said the author Jason Berry. "Now that we're in the worst crisis since the Great Depression, maybe they can try another route."
"Having a true federal response that factors in science and thoughtful restrictions is a welcome change," said Rashida Govan, executive director of the New Orleans Youth Alliance. "Mardi Gras is an important part of our lives, but I'd like to live to see the next Mardi Gras."
Regardless of who occupies the White House, 86 percent of respondents say they will mask for 100 days.
"If this pandemic has shown us anything about America, [it] is this: We are self-centered," said the Right Rev. Morris Thompson, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. "Wearing masks is a simple act of thinking about the other."
Nine in 10 respondents are "very" or "somewhat" willing to be vaccinated.
"The health stakes are too high to decline," said Bob Thomas, director of the Center for Environmental Communication at Loyola University. "As a society, we must stop this disease as soon as possible."
"The vaccine will help, but only if we make an effort to innoculate everyone like we did with the polio vaccine," added Betsy Kaston, board president at Jewish Family Service of Greater New Orleans.
Caution remains, however. "Safety of the vaccine must be determined more directly before I will take it," said U.S. District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon.
We also asked a speculative question: If allowed, how much would respondents pay to be one of the first people vaccinated? More than half wouldn't bite.
Byron LeBlanc, president of LeBlanc & Schuster Public Relations, said he'd consider it, but with a condition: "I'd probably be willing to pay more than $100 for the vaccine if it meant I cold get a wristband or something that would let me do away with the masks and resume normal behavior and travel."
Conducted online Monday through Thursday, The Times-Picayune Power Poll survey is not a scientific inquiry. But because it asks questions of the top Jefferson and Orleans parish influencers in business, politics, arts, media, non-profits and community affairs, it does afford a fascinating and non-partisan insight into the thoughts and opinions of those who steer the region. Of 405 Power Poll members surveyed this week, 94 voted for a participation rate of 23 percent.
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