NOLA swingers convention linked to 41 COVID-19 infections, organizers reveal

Naughty Events owner Bob Hannaford wrote he 'wouldn’t do it again if I knew then, what I know now.'

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A swingers convention in The Big Easy last month has been linked to an outbreak of coronavirus infections. 

The “Naughty N’awlins” convention had 300 attendees over four days, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 11. The event organizer, Naughty Events owner Bob Hannaford, revealed in a long blog post on his company website that he and his team have conducted “very aggressive” contact tracing. 

In all, 41 people linked to the event have tested positive. 

Pedestrians are seen walking along Bourbon Street in the French Quarter in New Orleans, the city where Naughty Events’ four-day swingers’ convention last month has been tied to 41 new coronavirus infections. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

“When COVID-19 first came out, no one knew what to do,” Hannaford wrote. “No one could have predicted this unprecedented, pandemic. The shutdowns, the all-clear, the spikes, and now we are heading towards more shutdowns.”

The company instituted aggressive protocols, Hannaford said, including attendees providing proof that they had COVID-19 antibodies, testing immediately before the convention, as well as maintaining mask protocols and social distancing. 

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Most of the 41 diagnosed coronavirus cases have been mild or asymptomatic, but at least two people had a “tougher time and they were suffering,” Hannaford wrote. “One of them, a good friend of mine, was hospitalized in serious condition.”

He expressed that as a leader in the swinging lifestyle industry, he met virtually with others on how to sustain their businesses amid the pandemic, and a colleague decided to reopen his swinging-related operation. 

“I know a lot of service industry (waiters, bartenders, cooks, etc.) and restaurant owners who were just dying to get back to work. They needed the income badly,” he claimed. “I felt for them and I understood the burden my friend experienced. We have five full-time employees that counted on us too. We also knew that so many of our favorite local businesses and friends were counting on us to come and help boost the economy for one weekend.”

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Naughty Events had planned its November “N’awlins” gathering as COVID-19 positive case numbers were trending down, restrictions were being lifted, and bars and restaurants were reopening. 

“We decided that we would strongly encourage everyone to get tested or bring us proof that they had the antibodies,” Hannaford wrote. “We wanted to create a ‘bubble’ that would not be considered safe, but it certainly would be safer.”

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People with comorbidities that could put them at high risk for COVID-19 were encouraged not to attend. 

“Sometimes it is O.K. to admit that we do not have the answers,” Hannaford wrote in his blog. “I don’t have the answer now, and I didn’t have the answer on November 11th, the day our event started. But I wouldn’t do it again if I knew then, what I know now. It weighs on me and it will continue to weigh on me until everyone is 100% better.”

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