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Mask mandate will remain in New Orleans even if statewide measure lifted, officials say

Paula Burch-Celentano
Tulane University

The extension or lifting of the state’s mask mandate is expected to be announced Tuesday by Gov. John Bel Edwards, according to reports. Could that mean that New Orleans officials follow suit?

In a press conference hours before the governor’s highly-anticipated announcement, Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s spokesperson Beau Tidwell said the city would continue enforcing a mask mandate, even if the statewide measure ends.

However, the city is moving in the right direction with COVID-19, he noted Tuesday.

Tidwell said the positivity rate in New Orleans is currently at 1.1% and that 75.6% of the eligible population of the city has been vaccinated against the viral threat. This number could change in the coming weeks, as reports have surfaced that children from ages 5 to 11 may soon be eligible for the shot.

The city will keep enforcing its mandatory vaccine mandate, which requires citizens to show proof of vaccine or a negative PCR test before entering certain businesses, like recreation venues or restaurants.

The city allowed Krewe of Boo to roll through the French Quarter, the first city-sanctioned parade in 19 months. The mayor said the Halloween-themed parade would be a test run for the city, and if COVID numbers stayed low after the event, the city would start to greenlight Mardi Gras activities.

To better understand how COVID could spread while hosting a parade in the city, the city's health department sent out 39 volunteers and nine NOHD staff to survey the crowd and krewe members. The department tested around 1,500 people and handed out 1,000 home tests.

"Two numbers I liked a lot from all that: 93% of the folks that they surveyed were vaccinated, and more than half of those people were from out of town," Tidwell said.

Coronavirus positivity results from Krewe of Boo were not available Tuesday, Tidwell said, and health department staff would likely check in with survey participants a week or so after the parade.

The parade route was shortened just a day before it rolled. Tidwell said it was only because not enough police officers volunteered for the secondary employment gig. The parade was initially supposed to make its way down and back up Canal Street, but the lack of first responders shortened it by 14 blocks.

Last week, the city started enforcing its mandate that all city employees have proof of a vaccine or a negative test against the virus to work. Tidwell also said that around 77% of all city employees are vaccinated, and 85% of NOPD employees have received the jab.

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