NEW ORLEANS — In a city known for welcoming people as they are, beginning Monday many New Orleans businesses will not be allowed to welcome people who are unvaccinated.
“We really have no choice this situation is dire,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
In addition to the existing mask mandate, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test will be required for indoor dining, bars, breweries, fitness centers, sports complexes and stadiums, music and performance venues, event spaces, casinos and racetracks.
“Don’t look for the loopholes,” said Mayor Cantrell. “Look for your vaccination card and be prepared to show it.”
The new requirement does not apply to kids under the age of 12 but does apply to everyone else, including out-of-state visitors. After a weeklong grace period, the city plans to begin enforcement which could result in fines or forced shutdowns for businesses that don’t comply.
“For businesses, the tendency is to panic, and I really think we need to keep it simple,” said McGlinchey Stafford labor and employment attorney Christine Tenley.
Tenley works with businesses trying to navigate the pandemic. She said employees will have to be trained on what to look for and employers should think along the lines of, no shirt, no shoes, no vaccine, no service.
“If businesses face people who don’t want to comply, they have the right to refuse service to them,” said Tenley.
Mayor Cantrell says the city should be proud that 53 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated and points to those not living in the city as a big reason for new requirements.
“Because so many of our neighbors and many of our visitors are not, our people are in danger,” said Mayor Cantrell.
“I think this is one more tool in the arsenal to lower risk,” said Dr. Jeffrey Elder with LCMC Health.
Dr. Elder said given the rate of COVID hospitalizations, something as simple as proof of vaccination makes sense.
“If we’re looking at ourselves as a group of people in a community, trying to do the right thing for the population, this is where we are today and these are the things that we have to do,” said Dr. Elder.
City leaders hope compliance can keep the economy from shutting down again, which the mayor says the city can’t handle.
“If you don’t want a shutdown, do the right thing. Get vaccinated, have your people vaccinated, follow the guidelines that are in place by Orleans Parish and we’ll come out of this,” said Mayor Cantrell.