In a late Friday afternoon press conference, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that the city’s existing mask advisory, issued last week, is now a mandate, meaning people are required to wear masks indoors and in large outdoor crowds — vaccinated or unvaccinated — effective immediately.
“We are not where we wanted to be or thought we could be, really, in our worst nightmares,” New Orleans health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said after the mayor spoke during the press conference. “Effective immediately, masks will be required in all indoor settings in Orleans Parish, and this includes all businesses in Orleans.” For restaurants and bars, this means patrons must keep their masks on when entering restaurants, when not seated for drinking and dining, and when picking up food. The mandate also requires staff to wear masks indoors.
Dr. Avegno took a moment to reference those businesses that took it upon themselves to implement their own policies in the wake of the city’s COVID-19 surge, thanking them for doing so and saying she believes their decisions have been well-received by residents. Top New Orleans music venues Tipitina’s, D.B.A, and the Maple Leaf announced earlier this week that they would require patrons to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to be admitted. The music venues’ new policy is effective today, July 30.
It’s been a little over a week since city officials issued a mask advisory, recommending that everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated, wear masks indoors, but stopping short of a mandate. The late-breaking Friday announcement is sure to present challenges for local bars and restaurants as they enter the weekend interacting with patrons who may or may not be aware of the updated city requirement. When asked how the mandate will be enforced, Mayor Cantrell said enforcement would be the same as during prior mask mandates, without much more detail. According to NOLA.com, it does not appear the city has ever issued any fines for violations of a mask mandate.
“This will be a challenge for the city as it has been, and we will do everything possible to ensure people will be held accountable, but personal responsibility is number one,” Cantrell said of enforcement, echoing a sentiment she’s consistently touted regarding efforts to combat the pandemic.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards held a long press conference earlier Friday addressing the urgent state of new cases and hospitalizations in the state, finishing not long before Mayor Cantrell went live. During it he said he was “seriously considering” a mask mandate, and said that people could expect to hear from him again as early as Monday.
New Orleans first issued a mask mandate in summer 2020, dropping it in May 2021 as cases subsided and vaccinations became widely available. Officials have since warned of rising virus rates endangering fall festivals, prompting some bars and restaurants to implement their own vaccination policies.