Signs of a Slowing Pandemic?

Look to the Water.


Just ask the wastewater.

That was my dad’s recent suggestion. More or less.

How’s life? How’s work? How’s the pandemic?

I get my daily update on all things Omicron through Jeff Asher’s Twitter feed (@Crimeanalytics: where national crime data tell dad jokes and watch Saints games). My science is simple: things look up when the trend lines plunge down.

But I’m always up for an outside-the-box measurement. Just ask the wastewater.

Apparently, that’s a thing. Scientists measure COVID-19’s surge by exploring our sewer systems. (I’d tell you more of the details, but my NY Times free samples have long been gobbled up.) If this really is true, might I suggest: Mr. President, do you remember your SWBNO tour? If there’s a city able to open up its pipes for the good of science, it’s us!

Ok, ok. An audit released in 2019 might have indicated 55% of our water is lost as it second lines through our piping system. But wouldn’t that just make it more scientifically accessible?

I’ll admit the wastewater survey got me thinking — and not just of a good theme song for “Mardi Gras in the Time of Cholera” (if Gabriel García Márquez and Lin-Manuel Miranda could have ever gotten together…) Judging a pandemic from our potties (excuse the visual) has got be more reliable than judging my next five years from the chicken-bone lady outside the cathedral. But it still seems a bit removed from the source.

Like judging hurricane recovery from the open Waffle Houses or Carnival success from the tonnage of trash. Wastewater, Waffle House, and trash: welcome to 2022!

I have another metric. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been monitoring holy water.

Now, it’s true, based on chemical (de)composition wastewater and holy water ain’t that much different. Counterpoint: it’s also true Ray Nagin never tried to sell bottled holy water.

At the beginning of the pandemic, holy water was one of the first things to go. All those hands, all that dipping. I once had a parishioner decide to do a water analysis of our fonts; let’s just say it’s fine for foreheads but not for baths.

But holy water has been on the way back. In my weekday church rotation, I find more fonts filled than empty. Holy Name, Immaculate Conception Downtown, St. Pius, St. Dominic — all in recent days. Based on my data, I’d say we’re nearing the bottoming of infection rates and the overtopping of holy water receptacles.

Except at my dear Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our weekend parish still has a dripping hand sanitizer station, but a covered font. Guadalupe has been very conservative throughout, and as a working-class parish, that makes sense. We need it to be the funeral church of New Orleans for that 19th century pandemic, not the 21st century one.

Actually, if I arrive Sunday to a holy water greeting, I’d be concerned. We had permission to take our masks off for two weekends this summer. The two weekends before the Delta surge. We had permission to take our masks off one weekend this Fall. The one weekend before the Omicron surge.

When Guadalupe finally zigs, that virus zags. As long as our saxophone and trumpet players keep blowing it away from our music ministry, though, we’ll be fine. (That’s the way the science works, right?)

So find your own scientific marker (a gift, according to Facebook, we’re all expert in). My dad’s called the wastewater. I’ll stick with the holy water.

But please, dear God, keep those fonts dry at Guadalupe until this is really, really over.




Why holy water at all? What’s the deal with that? You can go to Houma and get an answer.


Tired: Do you keep your knife in your king cake?

Wired: Do you keep your crummy plate forever next to your king cake?

Inspired: Do you eat a breakfast or snack or dessert other than king cake?


I have eaten king cake every day since January 6. (She said “for richer or poor, in fatness and in health,” right?) From Gracious Bakery’s chocolate to Gambino’s Epiphany to Nolita’s McKenzie homage to Tartine’s cream cheese and cinnamon — we’ve been popping out some babies. I made my annual Dong Phuong reservation for Mardi Gras week, but until then, any suggestions that don’t rhyme with “Ted Lasso’s?”




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