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New Orleans Could Shut Down Businesses For Violating Vaccine Mandate Amid 'Dire' COVID Surge

Ashley Dean
A woman sets up chairs outside a cafe in the French Quarter during the first surge of COVID 19 in 2020. The city is now requiring that all restaurants ask patrons for proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test.

After one of the nation’s only proof of vaccination mandates went into effect this week, city officials said Tuesday they are prepared to shut down businesses that don’t comply with the new restrictions as the delta variant continues to rip through New Orleans.

On Monday, the city joined New York City and San Francisco in requiring proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test for anyone 12 and older that go to businesses with high-risk activities, including restaurants, bars, venues and gyms. Enforcement of these rules will begin next Monday, said Beau Tidwell, communications director for Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office.

Code enforcement could shut down city businesses if they are reported, Tidwell said, similar to what city officials did to businesses flouting the mask mandate earlier in the pandemic.

The news of mandate enforcement comes as the New Orleans area continues to have one of the highest rates of transmission in a state with one of the highest rates in the nation. More than 3,500 people are hospitalized with the virus statewide, with hundreds on ventilators.

Tidwell said many hospitals are overflowing. “The situation remains dire,” said Tidwell. “The delta variant continues to put an unsustainable strain on our healthcare workers and our hospital system — in many cases there are no beds.”

In the past day in Louisiana, 122 have died from the virus, with 83% of all deaths statewide among the unvaccinated.

The positivity rate for the city is more than 12 percent. But Tidwell says vaccination rates are up slightly, especially among teenagers. More than 75 percent of eligible residents — those 12 and older — have started their vaccinations.

Yet 3,000 students and teachers were in quarantine Tuesday as outbreaks swept through New Orleans schools.

Despite the rapid spread of the variant, Tidwell said following the mandate is a way to avoid any further restrictions, including another shutdown.

Tidwell added that the city will provide paid staff to check IDs for businesses that need help with additional staffing through the Office of Workforce Development.

The city will host a vaccine card assistance event at the Treme Center from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday for those that need help downloading LA Wallet or replacing lost vaccination records.

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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