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New Orleans Officials Sound the Alarm for Fall Festivals Following Uptick in COVID Cases

Mask rules for the unvaccinated and capacity limits could be on the table if the Delta variant continues to spread at a high rate

Jazz Fest 2015
Brasted/Eater NOLA

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise locally and statewide, New Orleans health officials are warning of the potential impact on the city’s jam-packed fall schedule of events and festivals. Measures like mask mandates for those who are unvaccinated and capacity limits could be implemented if the Delta variant continues to spread, officials said during a press conference Tuesday.

“We would all love to have large events that did not require some degree of mitigation and before Delta, I was maybe a little bit more confident that we would get there,” New Orleans’s health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said. “We really need to see what happens with Delta.”

It was Avegno’s first appearance at the weekly press conference in months, signaling the level of concern over the rise in cases and slowed-down vaccination rates locally. Orleans Parish is averaging about 20 new cases of COVID per day, as of Wednesday, July 14, up from around 7 new cases per day a month ago, according to the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate. There were 1,341 new cases confirmed in Louisiana on Wednesday, and 92 in New Orleans. The city’s positivity rate is 1.6 percent, a number Avegno said will likely increase in the coming days.

Many of the festivals scheduled for this fall would normally take place in the spring, including French Quarter Fest and New Orleans’s banner festival, Jazz Fest, but were postponed in hopes of better pandemic-related conditions. Voodoo Fest, which typically takes place over Halloween weekend, was initially scheduled to return in 2021 for its normal dates after canceling in 2020, but called it off in June without citing a specific reason. Avegno said Tuesday the city may have to consider requiring masks for those without proof of vaccination for Saints games, large events, and festivals if the spread worsens.

“As long as the Delta keeps spreading in our unvaccinated communities, eventually it is going to mutate to a form that is even more transmissible and some fear outsmarting our vaccines. We have got to stop this before it mutates into a form of COVID our vaccines do not protect us against,” said Avegno.

63.1 percent of Orleans Parish residents are fully vaccinated, officials said. For a list of upcoming vaccination events in the New Orleans area, see here.