New Orleans hopes health-pass rule doesn't stop the partying

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Raw Story 16 August, 2021 - 05:35am 45 views

published : 16 Aug 2021 at 13:45

writer: AFP

NEW ORLEANS - As the Covid-19 Delta variant tightens its grip on the United States, that grip is nowhere tighter than in the southern state of Louisiana, where the sky-high rate of infections is the worst in the country.

With hospitals hammered and healthcare workers struggling amid a furious virus surge that has brought the state's daily average of infections to 126 per 100,000 inhabitants, historic New Orleans has opted for decisive action: on Monday it will follow New York and San Francisco in requiring what amounts to a "health pass" for entry to an array of venues.

"We're here today because we really have no choice," said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. "The situation is dire and we are simply out of time."

People will now be required to present either proof of vaccination or a negative virus test to be admitted to bars, restaurants, sporting arenas and fitness centers -- and even to attend major outdoor events including NFL football games at the city's Superdome.

This aggressive approach has polarized residents of the state's biggest city.

Some put aside their doubts and resigned themselves to heading to a vaccination site for their first dose.

But others, either defiant or oblivious, shrugged off the new rule and, as night fell, converged on the busy streets of the French Quarter, the night-life epicenter in this city of 400,000.

- 'Pushed over the edge' -

At a vaccination site set up in a parking lot in the Treme neighborhood -- an area devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 -- the authorities were also offering virus testing.

But in a reflection of the broader divide across Louisiana -- where cases have exploded as vaccinations have lagged -- dozens of cars were lined up for testing, while three National Guardsmen manning a vaccination tent had little to do.

Despite a stepped-up pace of immunizations since mid-July, only 37.9 percent of the state's population is fully vaccinated, compared to the 51.1 percent rate nationwide.

For Justin, who is 34, and his 26-year-old partner Jen, the health-pass requirement made a difference. The two Florida natives said they are "hooked" on sports and cannot imagine being barred from the events, or gyms.

"It definitely pushed me over the edge," said Justin, a software engineer. He said he and Jen, a makeup artist, had been waiting for the US Food and Drug Agency to give the vaccines final approval.

"I'm a big-time gym guy," he added. "So that's my main motivator, honestly."

People getting their inoculations cited a variety of reasons.

Jenny, an immigrant who speaks little English, said she was getting the jab to keep her job in a restaurant that is requiring all workers to be vaccinated.

Richard was lined up for a virus test, but said he planned to return in a few days for a vaccination. His reason: to protect his son.

- 'We still got to live' -

This is not the first time Covid-19 has brought Louisiana to its knees.

The first wave, already serious, grew far worse after last year's Mardi Gras celebration, the climax of New Orleans' festive winter season that each February draws a sea of partygoers to the French Quarter.

The city had canceled all big events and banned public assemblies. But now, even as the Delta variant tears through the US South, the French Quarter is as lively as ever.

Every night, hundreds of tourists and partyers converge there, with few sporting masks.

Bourbon Street, the main pedestrian avenue, has shrugged off last year's gray tones and is now as colorful as ever, with the cheap, plastic necklaces people throw to each other in the street and the tall, neon-colored plastic cocktail glasses that people here, unlike in most US cities, are allowed to enjoy in public.

Thirty-year-old Niko -- sporting a green Celtics cap and dark sunglasses despite the fact the sun had set long ago -- explained why he was wearing a mask.

"I believe Covid still exists," he said. "But at the same time we still got to live."

Like him, Sherry Carpenter -- who had come from neighboring Arkansas with her two daughters -- did not want to hear about the vaccine.

With a mask in hand, she flatly rejected the idea of a health pass.

"I think everyone should have the freedom of choice," the 53-year-old cleaning woman said, comparing the issue to abortion.

Like it or not, New Orleans will on Monday step into the largely uncharted territory of health passes -- and will have to strike a balance between the pleasures of the French Quarter and the pitfalls of the Delta variant.

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Proof of vaccination starts Monday

WWLTV 16 August, 2021 - 01:20pm

Proof of vaccination starts Monday

WDSU News 16 August, 2021 - 01:20pm

New Orleans proof of vaccination, negative COVID test starts today for some indoor establishments

WDSU New Orleans 16 August, 2021 - 06:55am

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno have announced in a news conference that proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entry for large crowds indoors.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno have announced in a news conference that proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entry for large crowds indoors.

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New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno have announced in a news conference that proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entry for large crowds indoors.

New Orleans indoor businesses will begin asking for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test Monday per the city's new coronavirus restrictions.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno have announced Friday that proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entry for large crowds indoors.

According to the new guidelines, the following businesses will be affected:

Acceptable evidence of a COVID-19 vaccination includes:

The announcement comes as Louisiana sees record-high coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

It was announced earlier this week that Saints fans would be required to wear masks inside for games due to Gov. John Bel Edwards's indoor mask mandate.

The mandate is in place until Sept. 1 and could be extended.

Other businesses such as restaurants and music venues have announced they are requiring proof of vaccination for entry into their establishments.

New Orleans currently has a percent positivity rate of 15%.

The Saints issued the following statement regarding Dome capacity:

"Our first priority will always be the health and safety of our fans, employees, game day staff, players and participants. Last season we were able to implement policies and procedures in consultation with state, local and our own medical experts that allowed us to safely host fans for games and resulted in our being ranked first in the NFL in health and safety.

"We are committed to doing everything we can in the current environment to protect your health and safety while at the same time providing the best game day experience in the NFL. Our team has been blessed with the greatest home field advantage in sports because we have the most committed, resilient and passionate fans in the world. We understand some will be frustrated, as are we, that we find ourselves in this position. We, as a community, have overcome so much in our history and come back stronger every time. Together, we can defeat this virus and return to living, celebrating and winning in the way we always have. We need you in that number- both on game day and in defeating this virus.

"We remain optimistic that, with our community’s help and as vaccination rates increase, these restrictions will no longer be necessary as the season progresses. To assist in that effort, the Saints will be teaming up with Ochsner Health on a number of free vaccination events throughout our region and outside of the Caesars Superdome on game day. For detailed information on vaccination opportunities and education, Saints gameday policies and procedures, FAQ and other game information please visit www.neworleanssaints.com"

The Smoothie King Center issued the following statement regarding capacity:

"Our priority remains the health and safety of guests, staff, and participants for events at all our venues. Given the new rules and regulations from the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana, we will work closely with the New Orleans Saints and each event organizer to ensure compliance so that events can continue to be hosted at 100% capacity until such time the requirements are lifted.

"These guidelines include the need for all patrons, staff, vendors and participants to show a vaccination card or verified digital proof of vaccination (LA Wallet or other official government- sanctioned app) or negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the game or event. Masks will also be required at all times other than when actively eating or drinking.

"As more information and details become available for specific events, it will be posted on the website of each venue.

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