The U.S. is in the midst of another COVID-19 surge, spurred on by the highly transmissible omicron variant. In Louisiana, the surge is centered in New Orleans, where nearly half of the state’s cases were recorded in the past week, with 2,322 confirmed COVID cases as of December 20.
As is happening in other cities throughout the country, several local restaurants have publicly acknowledged outbreaks and closed temporarily, including Patois, High Hat Cafe, and Maypop. In the case of Patois, the Uptown fine-dining restaurant was able to reopen earlier this week after first shutting down Friday night due to positive cases among staff, only to close again due to a “significant staff shortage.” High Hat and Maypop have both since reopened.
Other restaurants are choosing to shut down for longer out of an oft-repeated “abundance of caution,” including the Maple Leaf Bar, which announced a closure at least through December 30, due to “several” staff members and musicians testing positive for COVID-19. Chef Susan Spicer is giving it time at her restaurant Rosedale as well, remaining closed through the end of the week after first announcing a positive staff test and shutting down on Saturday. Saba, Alon Shaya’s acclaimed Magazine Street restaurant, announced a shift to takeout only through next week, “due to a growing number of positive COVID cases and staffing limitations.”
Last week, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and city health department director Dr. Jennifer Avegno announced an update to the city’s vaccine mandate, which requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to dine inside at restaurants and enter other businesses, to apply to everyone ages five and up beginning January 3, 2022. Kids will be required to have at least one dose of the vaccine to eat inside by then, and have had their second dose to do so come February 1. Additionally, while outlining the Mardi Gras-based vaccination timeline last week, they warned that increasing cases of the omicron variant may necessitate the need to reinstate the indoor mask mandate in the lead-up to the holiday. (Today, December 21, Mayor Cantrell confirmed plans for Mardi Gras 2022, at the same time announcing unpopular parade route changes due to supposed “limited staffing” from police, fire, medical and other public safety personnel.)
There is currently no indoor mask mandate in New Orleans or statewide. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’s public health emergency proclamation, most recently renewed last month, expires tomorrow, at which point he is expected to issue a new 30-day proclamation and announce any potential changes to current COVID safety measures.