New Orleans Ending Mask Mandate; Vaccine Mandate Ending Soon

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans is lifting its indoor mask mandate now that the annual Carnival season, which draws large crowds to city streets and packs bars and restaurants, is over, the city health director said Wednesday.

Dr. Jennifer Avegno said the mask mandate ends Thursday at 6 a.m. She added that another COVID-19 mitigation measure — a requirement that customers show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for entry into bars, restaurants or other venues — will end March 21, if hospitalization rates remain stable.

“The greatest benefit of masking to our community has been during these past few weeks of repeated large crowded activities, particularly indoors,” Avegno said. “And the threat from those events has now significantly lessened as we enter into Lent and leave Carnival behind.”

Avegno added that the city strongly supports individuals’ decisions to continue masking and the rights of businesses to continue masking requirements. She said health officials will closely monitor data in the coming weeks and expect the number of infections will rise, given the influx of Carnival crowds. How those infections affect hospitalization rates will be key to deciding whether to go through with the lifting of proof-of-vaccination requirements, she said.

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