On Wednesday, the Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, loosened COVID-19 restrictions by making a huge move. Local residents and visitors are no longer required to wear masks in public places, and the vaccine policies are changed as negative tests can be the alternative to receiving a dose.
These new rules are in effect starting Friday, October 29, and they will be in place for this week’s major holiday – Halloween. Earlier this week, Gov. John Bel Edwards also decided to end the mask mandate statewide.
The New Policies Are The Result of a Dip in COVID-19 Cases
The loosened restrictions come as a result of the massive dip in COVID-19 cases in New Orleans. Thanks to that, city officials were more than willing to relax a bit. Up until that point, New Orleans was considered the strictest Louisiana city with rules on masks and vaccines. In general, Louisiana had a tough battle with the pandemic, and one of the industries that was massively hit was the gambling industry. During the peak of the pandemic last year, the state reported $830 million in gambling revenue loss.
With the new rules, people will no longer be required to wear masks in stadiums, bars, restaurants and other public places. Some exceptions still apply, though. People over the age of two will have to wear masks in K-12 schools, health care facilities and on public transportation.
Additionally, instead of mandating vaccines, the mayor has allowed negative antigen tests for business entry. Until today, patrons were required to show proof of vaccination, but with the new rules, they can also display a negative PCR test to enter bars, restaurants and other businesses.
PCR tests are considered way more accurate, but since they take a few days to be completed, patrons also have the option of using antigen tests, which can be available in less than half an hour. Thus, they can prove their eligibility for service much easier.
On Wednesday, New Orleans Had Just 35 Positive COVID-19 Cases
Wednesday resulted in a massive decline of COVID-19 cases and it was the epitome of the decline in cases, hospitalized people and deaths in the past couple of weeks. Orleans Parish reported just 35 positive COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, which is a steep decline compared to a few weeks ago, in the time when Hurricane Ida was raging across Louisiana. During that time, the city reported hundreds of daily cases. Moreover, the hurricane disrupted the launch of sports betting in the state.
In a prepared statement, the director of the health department of New Orleans, Dr. Jennifer Avegno, said that thanks to the indoor mask policy that was in effect in the past couple of months, the surge in Delta variant cases declined. However, he urged residents to be careful after the Krewe of Boo parade, which was held last Saturday, had thousands of revelers in the city’s downtown for the first float parade since the start of the pandemic.
Around 1,200 people were surveyed at the parade by volunteers and staff from the city health department. The goal of the survey was to see whether a spike in cases would follow after the event. The participants that were surveyed in this monitoring program will be called two weeks after to determine whether they have contracted COVID-19 or not. According to Cantrell, these results will have a massive influence on the Mardi Gras parades.
NOLA Public Schools officials have stated that they are “in alignment with Cantrell’s position” concerning the retainment of school mask mandates. NOLA is independent of City Hall.
Local jurisdictions will be able to maintain their mandates with Edward’s order, and Cantrell’s brief pause after the announcement of the governor is consistent with her previous policies regarding masks. Cantrell’s handling of the pandemic received praises from city residents as her requirements have been far stricter than those implied by the state. When the first mask mandate was lifted in April, Cantrell waited an additional month before implementing the new policy in New Orleans.