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‘We’re No Longer the Town From Footloose’: NOLA Drops Mask Mandate, Allows Dancing

But local businesses still have the right to uphold their own mask mandates

Masked man walks his dog down a French Quarter street Photo by CLAIRE BANGSER/AFP via Getty Images

One day after the CDC declared vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks indoors or out, the city of New Orleans has followed suit and lifted its mask mandate. In an afternoon press conference on Friday, May 14, city health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno also announced that dancing is again allowed for those who are fully vaccinated — “We are no longer the town from Footloose,” she said.

Masking exceptions mirror the federal government’s guidance — masks are still required on public transit, in City buildings, K-12 schools, and in health care facilities. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards ended the statewide mask mandate at the end of April, but deferred to policies set by local governments and private businesses. Today, he went further and lifted a mask requirement at state government buildings.

Fifty percent of eligible New Orleanians are fully vaccinated, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in the Friday press conference, a number she said “reflects the civic trust that has been evident on the ground here since the start of this pandemic.” She added that there’s “no excuse” not to get vaccinated in New Orleans as it relates to accessibility, saying that the city will continue to make outreach efforts and host vaccination events. An event held May 13 by the New Orleans City Council and local nonprofit Propeller, which promised a free pound of crawfish with every vaccination, was well-attended, according to an event volunteer.

New Orleans lifted capacity limits at restaurants, bars, and breweries on April 30 — allowing these businesses to serve at 100 percent occupancy indoors. The 1 a.m. cutoff time for alcohol sales at bars remains in place, as do current gathering sizes and capacity limits at stadiums and sporting venues. That means indoor gatherings are capped at 250 people, outdoor gatherings at 500, and stadium and sporting venue limits are 25 percent capacity indoors and 50 percent outside. Dr. Avegno noted that these caps remain in place because “As a city, we’ve learned that step-wise, phased reopening will limit the need to pull back” should circumstances change.

Dr. Avegno emphasized the right of businesses to still require masks across the board and for individuals to choose to keep wearing them due to the difficulty of knowing who is and who is not vaccinated. “We ask that people continue to respect others' choice to wear masks ... If any of our businesses choose to continue to require masks, customers should comply,” she said.

During her at-times impassioned speech, Mayor Cantrell said that “this milestone is a huge victory for modern science and medicine.” In what was seemingly a declaration of “good news,” the outdoor press conference opened and closed with a performance by a trumpet player.

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