Friday, March 5, 2021
By Mark Cave, senior historian

The first case of COVID-19 in Louisiana was diagnosed on March 9, 2020, triggering a transformative period in our region’s history.  

In June 2020, The Historic New Orleans Collection started to record oral history interviews in an ambitious project titled From the Frontline: Narratives of the COVID-19 Pandemic in New Orleanswhich has sought to record the crisis as it unfolded and to lend perspective to its evolution. Work on this initiative will continue for the next year, and interviews will document not only the experience of frontline workers and local leaders, but also individuals who have experienced the cultural, economic, and political changes wrought by the pandemic 

These three videos record the experiences of prominent local leaders. They are a sample of the full, forthcoming work in From the Frontline. 

Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the New Orleans Health Department


Dr. Jennifer Avegnodirector of the New Orleans Health Department, has been at the center of the COVID-19 crisis from the start. Born and raised in the New Orleans area, she has been the public face of the city’s response to COVID-19 and has been responsible for orchestrating the city’s efforts in establishing social distancing protocols and testing centers.  

LaToya Cantrell, mayor of New Orleans


The first female mayor of the City of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell has faced an unprecedented set of challenges during her first term. The loss of human life during the pandemic was felt acutely in the mayor’s office, according to Cantrell, who said that the casualties motivated the city's response and inspired efforts to help the community emerge from the crisis a more prosperous and equitable place.  

Cynthia Lee Sheng, Jefferson Parish president 


Cynthia Lee Sheng had only been Jefferson Parish President for two months before the diagnosis of a Jefferson Parish resident on March 9, 2020, triggered a crisis responseShe discusses the delicate balance of economic realities with public health concerns throughout the pandemic—one that has tested local leaders nationwide.