City Allows Bigger Gatherings, Keeps Mask Mandate

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NEW ORLEANS – At a Thursday morning press conference, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the city’s health department, announced that the city’s mask mandate will remain in place but larger gatherings will be allowed. In addition, capacity limits are going away for most establishments.

The new rules come after Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards lifted the state’s requirement to wear masks in most public places and private businesses. 

Under the new rules that take effect Friday, outdoor gatherings of up to 500 will be allowed. Indoor, the maximum number of people is now 250. 

“We believe that this will definitely accommodate residents as well as our hospitality industry,” said the Mayor. “But again, it’s a balance. … New Orleans is a safer place because of the guidelines that we have had in place throughout the past year and we want to continue on that trajectory. … And so with that, we’ll continue to move forward with vaccinating all of our residents.”

Avegno said that capacity limits will remain in effect for gyms and stadiums.

“There are some nuances in there that we are we are working through and we’ll be in contact with some of those relevant entities,” she said.

She also emphasized that social distancing and masking rules have to stay in place.

“There is no national public health organization or leading experts that recommend the full removal masks right now,” said Avegno. “While full vaccination is needed for the pandemic to end, continued masking and distancing mitigates the degree of illness and death until we reach that point. Masks are simple. Masks are effective. They protect not only the wearer, but they protect the entire community. And I think we’ve seen that time and time again and there is a wealth of evidence that supports this.”

Avegno said New Orleans will be the “most open it has been since the big pandemic began 14 months ago. With that brings more risk. Louisiana continues to rank among the highest in percentage of variants and lowest in vaccinations. Those are the opposite of what we would like to see. And we only need to look at places both near and far like Michigan, Oregon, Brazil and India to see that the potential for another surge – continued illness continued hospitalizations, continued deaths – is very real. It is not theoretical.”

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