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With Mardi Gras Over, New Orleans Stops Requiring Masks in Restaurants and Bars

If COVID cases remain low, the city says it will end its vaccine mandate on March 21

People wait in line to enter a restaurant in the French Quarter on August 13, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

The city of New Orleans is ending its indoor mask mandate for most spaces — including restaurants and bars — at 6 a.m. on Thursday, March 3, 2022, two days after this year’s Mardi Gras festivities. The decision was announced by city health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Citing the the CDC’s new system of assessing COVID-19 community level — “it was announced on Friday, and I think most of the city was a bit occupied that day” — Dr. Avegno said, referring to Carnival celebrations, “Orleans Parish meets the criteria for low levels of transmission of the virus.” According to the new criteria, the only steps needed for prevention are to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and to get tested if you have symptoms.

As such, the mandate requiring masks indoors at most public spaces except when actively eating or drinking is being lifted. “Still, we strongly support an individual’s own decision to continue masking. And we strongly support the right of businesses, schools, and other entities to continue to require masks,” Dr. Avegno emphasized. Masks will still be required in healthcare facilities and on public transit. Furthermore, Dr. Avegno said, if the city’s virus levels remain stable, the mandate requiring a proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to dine indoors will be lifted on March 21, which elicited an audible response from attendees at the press conference.

New Orleans reinstated its indoor mask mandate on January 12 (the third time the city put one into place) with Dr. Avegno indicating at the time that it would remain in place until after Mardi Gras. The city implemented a mandate requiring residents 12 and older and visitors to present vaccine proof or a negative COVID test for entry at restaurants, music venues, bars, and other indoor spaces in August, and expanded that policy to everyone five and under in February. As of Wednesday, New Orleans is reporting that 84.7 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, and 45.4 percent of children between five and 17 are fully vaccinated.

The city’s decision to end its various mandates follows a trend around the country, with cities like Boston and Atlanta ending their masking requirements in the last few days, and D.C., and Chicago recently lifting both vaccination and indoor mask mandates.