New Orleans Announces Vaccine Rules for Indoor Venues

Carolyn Crist

August 13, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

New Orleans will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for customers to enter indoor locations such as bars, gyms, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

The new rules were announced Thursday as Louisiana faces a surge in coronavirus cases due to the contagious Delta variant and low vaccination rates. New Orleans residents are now getting vaccinated at slightly higher rates than the rest of the country, according to The Associated Press, but the state's overall vaccination rate is still one of the lowest.

"Look for your vaccination card and be prepared to show it," Mayor LaToya Cantrell said during a news conference.

The requirement begins Monday, and there will be a 1-week grace period before the city begins to heavily enforce the rule. The city also has an indoor mask mandate that began July 30.

Anyone age 12 or older must provide proof of at least one vaccine dose, including employees. The mandate covers bars, restaurants, breweries, distilleries, gyms, indoor fitness centers, stadiums, music halls, bowling alleys, arcades, indoor playgrounds, live performance venues, casinos, racetracks, and indoor amusement facilities.

Cantrell said she's not creating business capacity limits or thinking about another shutdown. Rather, she's urging people to get vaccinated to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"Unlike this time last year, we have a tool that we did not have," she said.

Many restaurants, bars, and coffee shops in New Orleans have already set their own requirements for proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests, the AP reported. The city is also requiring workers and contractors to get vaccinated.

About 60% of New Orleans residents have received at least one vaccine dose, and 53% have been fully vaccinated, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. Statewide, 45% have received at least one dose, and 38% have been fully vaccinated.

To prove vaccination status, people can use the LA Wallet app, the original CDC vaccine card, or a photocopy or digital photo of both sides of the card. People should avoid creating fake vaccination cards, Jennifer Avegno, MD, the city's top health official, warned on Thursday. The FBI has already arrested people who have made fraudulent cards, she said.

She also spoke emotionally when asked whether the new measures are "drastic."

"What's drastic is where we are right now," Avegno said. "What's drastic is that a patient who has a heart attack has to travel 2 hours to find a hospital. What's drastic is a 2-week-old hospitalized or a 12-year-old who could have been vaccinated on a ventilator. Having a piece of paper, or having something on your phone … that's not drastic."

Sources

The Associated Press: "New Orleans mayor: Good times can roll -- with vaccines."

City of New Orleans: "Proof of Vaccination or Negative PCR Test Required for Higher-Risk Activities."

Louisiana Department of Health: "COVID-19 Information: Vaccination Information."

LA Wallet: "LA Wallet to Include an Individual's Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Verification."

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