New Orleans announced Thursday that people will have to show either proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test result within the last 72 hours to go to bars, eat indoors at restaurants, work out in a gym, or do other activities in public.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell said that the new rules will go into effect on Monday and enforcement will start on Aug. 23.
“The situation is dire. We are out of time. The COVID outbreak is severe and pushing our hospitals and first responders for 18 months. The people of New Orleans are at the brink,” the Mayor said at a press conference Thursday. “Sports complexes and stadiums, this includes the Superdome. Concerts, centers, music halls, event spaces, and adult performance venues. Casinos and racetracks also included in this.”
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City workers and contractors were already required to get vaccinated, and the Mayor implemented a new mask mandate on July 30.
Dr. Jennifer Avegno, an emergency room doctor in New Orleans, said that universal masking is “absolutely essential in the short term to help blunt the high levels of community spread while we wait for vaccination rates everywhere to increase.”
“While our mask mandate was a critical first step, it’s not enough and we need to do more,” Dr. Avegno said at Thursday’s press conference. “We want people to live, children to be protected, and businesses to thrive, and these guidelines are the way to do all of that as much as we possibly can.”
The 7-day average for new cases in Louisiana is the highest it has ever been, standing at 7,010 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Deaths are also rising in the state, but not as high as they were during the first wave in April 2020 and the third wave in January of this year. The 7-day average for new deaths in Louisiana was 50 on Wednesday.
Louisiana has the fourth-lowest vaccination rate in the country as just 45.4% of residents have received at least one dose, compared to 71.3% nationwide, according to the CDC.
Meanwhile, people who aren’t fully vaccinated account for 91% of current COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
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New Orleans is following in the footsteps of other big cities that are starting to require vaccines for certain activities in public.
New York City announced last week that people who want to eat indoors, go to the gym, or see a performance will have to present proof that they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine starting Aug. 16, with enforcement to start Sept. 13.
San Francisco announced its own stricter vaccine requirements earlier on Thursday, requiring people to be fully vaccinated.
The Los Angeles City Council passed legislation on Wednesday that directs the city attorney to draft an order requiring individuals to be vaccinated to go to the gym, eat indoors, and do other things in public.