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New Orleans Now Has A Task Force To Make Sure You Follow The Pandemic Rules

Ben Depp
Mayor LaToya Cantell speaks at a press conference in March.

New Orleans now has a mask task force — a mask force, if you will.

Mayor Latoya Cantrell announced Wednesday that the city is launching a task force to make sure businesses and residents comply with all of the Phase 2 rules: wear masks, don’t gather in groups of more than 100 people, and keep a distance of 6 feet from others. She said the task force will issue citations and have the authority to shut down non-compliant businesses.

New Orleans will stay in Phase 2 for now, Cantrell said at the press conference. She said cases have been increasing and expressed frustration over businesses and individuals who are not following the rules carefully.

The state saw the highest jump in coronavirus cases on Monday since April, as officials have loosened restrictions.

The enforcement team is made up of staff from Code Enforcement, Safety and Permits, city and state health departments, the state Office of Alcohol & Tobacco Control, and the State Fire Marshal. Some city employees will start working on weekends to staff the team.

“We have to double down on our efforts,” Cantrell said. “It’s just that important.”

Otherwise, she said, the city might have to go back to Phase 1.

“We’re not kidding,” she added.

This comes after several “super spreader events,” including a party in Tigerland at LSU and a graduation party. The New Orleans Police Department cracked down on a party last week at an Airbnb. Cantrell said 80 percent of coronavirus cases are spread by 20 percent of infected people.

City health department leader Jennifer Avegno said 50 percent of the new cases are in people younger than 30. Ten percent are in teenagers.

Avegno issued a warning: "What you do today will determine our future … who has a job, and who lives and who dies.”

Tegan has reported on the coast for WWNO since 2015. In this role she has covered a wide range of issues and subjects related to coastal land loss, coastal restoration, and the culture and economy of Louisiana’s coastal zone, with a focus on solutions and the human dimensions of climate change. Her reporting has been aired nationally on Planet Money, Reveal, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, BBC, CBC and other outlets. She’s a recipient of the Pulitzer Connected Coastlines grant, CUNY Resilience Fellowship, Metcalf Fellowship, and countless national and regional awards.

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