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New Orleans Mandates Proof of Vaccination for Indoor Dining and Drinking

In Orleans Parish, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test will be required at bars, restaurants, and venues on Monday, August 16

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At the beginning of August, following a month-long surge in local COVID cases spurred by the delta variant, top New Orleans music venues took it upon themselves to institute vaccination policies, followed by a number of bars and restaurants. Now, it is no longer a decision businesses must grapple with: At a press conference Thursday afternoon, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Orleans Parish will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours for indoor dining and drinking, effective Monday, August 16. So if you would like to eat or drink inside a restaurant or bar, be prepared to flash proof — and to remember it’s now a citywide policy.

“The situation is dire, and we are simply out of time,” Mayor Cantrell said before announcing the new requirements Thursday. “It is overtaxing our healthcare resources, our hospitals, and our first responders. Our people are at the brink. We have to take action now to protect our people and to protect our economy. And so, here we are again today.”

New Orleans is just the third city in the country to establish a vaccine mandate, after New York City announced theirs last week, and San Francisco earlier today, August 12 (though negative COVID tests are not accepted in either city). New Orleans’s mandate applies not only to restaurants and bars, but also breweries, gyms, stadiums like the Superdome and Smoothie King Center, adult performance venues, casinos, and music and event venues. Notably, it will also apply to outdoor events of 500 people and above, having implications for the city’s festivals.

Specifically, patrons will be required to show proof of vaccination with a physical vaccine card, a photo or photocopy of their vaccine card, or via the LA Wallet app or the equivalent in their state, and establishments will be tasked with checking it against a photo ID. At least one dose is required, like in New York. A negative COVID test within the previous 72 hours will also be accepted. The requirement will apply to employees; “everyone entering these establishments,” says a spokesperson. The mandate does not apply to children under the age of 12, who aren’t eligible to get the vaccine yet. Masks will still be required indoors, per the previous mandate.

Cantrell said she wanted to give businesses enough time to adjust, but that at the same time, “We don’t have a lot of time here. This will begin on Monday, August 16, and we will begin aggressive enforcement the following week,” on August 23, the mayor said. Regarding implementation by businesses, city health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said, “I think if Tipitina’s, and Milan Lounge, and Saffron can find a way to do it, we think it’s doable,” referring to three spots that have implemented their own policies.

The highly contagious delta variant has rapidly spread in Louisiana and New Orleans — on Thursday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported 4,285 new COVID cases in the state since August 10. In New Orleans, 2,400 new cases in the city have been added since last Wednesday. Orleans Parish leads the state in vaccinations, however, with 53 percent of residents fully vaccinated compared to 38 percent of residents statewide. Still, the current spread has led to the cancellation of New Orleans’s banner festival, Jazz Fest, for the second year in a row, an almost unfathomable blow to the city’s hospitality industry to happen two years back to back. Earlier this week, a few days after the cancellation, officials warned of the possibility of additional COVID measures, prompting speculation over a vaccination mandate.

New Orleans lifted all remaining COVID restrictions in May 2021, only to reinstate a mask mandate roughly two months later on July 30. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards followed suit a few days later with a statewide mask mandate.

UPDATE: Friday, August 13, 8:31 a.m.: This article has been updated to reflect that a negative COVID test within the previous 72 hours will be accepted, not 24 hours as previously reported.

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