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Jump in virus cases may lead to mask rules in New Orleans

9 months 3 weeks 4 days ago Wednesday, July 21 2021 Jul 21, 2021 July 21, 2021 8:30 AM July 21, 2021 in News
Source: Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A nine-fold increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks and a jump in the percentage of positive tests for the disease has New Orleans officials considering new mitigation measures, a city spokesperson said Tuesday.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the city’s health officer, Dr. Jennifer Avegno, will announce plans Wednesday, Cantrell spokesperson Beau Tidwell said at a weekly City Hall briefing.

Tidwell wouldn’t give details. But he said under questioning that rules involving masks are “certainly a strong possibility.”

“All options are on the table,” Tidwell said.

The city eased numerous restrictions in May, including a city-wide masking requirement. The policy at that time was that fully vaccinated individuals were no longer required to wear masks while unvaccinated people “should” wear masks. Businesses currently have the option of requiring masks. Masks are still required in government buildings, hospitals and public transportation.

The seven-day average of new cases reported daily in New Orleans has jumped to 99, up from 11 two weeks ago. The positivity rate among those tested has surpassed 5%, one of the thresholds the city has used in the past in weighing mitigation measures. Most of the cases are caused by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

While mitigation measures are being considered, Tidwell said getting more people vaccinated is the key to stopping the spread.

New Orleans has a relatively high vaccination rate compared to the rest of the state. More than 63% of those eligible for vaccination have had at least one shot. But, he said, the numbers need to improve. He noted that New Orleans is a tourist destination and said residents need to be vaccinated to guard against being infected by unvaccinated visitors.

State health officials last week sounded alarms about what they called “startling” jumps in coronavirus infections last week. Hospitalizations in Louisiana had hit a low of 242 in June, the lowest since early 2020 when the state became a hot spot for COVID-19. On Tuesday, the number hospitalized was 779.

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