NEW ORLEANS — Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that New Orleans would ease COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, as vaccination numbers rise in New Orleans while new cases fall.
The mayor made the announcement at a Wednesday press conference, where she will speak alongside Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno.
The restriction rollback pushes the city into a "modified phase 3," similar to the rest of the state.
Restaurants and businesses will be allowed up to 75% occupancy under the new guidelines. Religious services will also be opened up to 75% capacity, as long as mask mandates are followed.
Gatherings of up to 75 people indoors and 150 people outside will also be allowed.
Live entertainment will be allowed in the city again in businesses following State Fire Marshal requirements.
Avegno cautioned that the guidelines for live music were nuanced and detailed, and encouraged business owners to read up on them before attempting to book musicians.
"The numbers are what they are because people have been doing the right thing. we have been putting in the work," Cantrell said.
For the upcoming St. Patrick's Day weekend, there will be no parades and block parties are prohibited, she added.
Avegno said New Orleans, with one of the largest populations of African-American residents in the country, is still at high risk from coronavirus because of the secondary conditions known to make the virus more deadly being prevalent in the Black community.
But despite Black residents making up more than 60% of the city, fewer than 50% of the vaccinations distributed so far in the city have been to Black patients.
"We are hustling to get vaccines to arms," Avegno said. "It is about removing barriers and providing education."
She said that New Orleans led vaccination numbers in the country, with 12% of Orleans Parish having at least started the vaccination process. That's a long way off from the 75% vaccination level that experts recommend for "herd immunity," but it's still a promising sign.
Even after the city and the surrounding state reach a 75% vaccination rate, it won't be as though COVID-19 never happened.
"That doesn't mean that we're never going to have another case of coronavirus again," Avegno said. "We're not trying to get to zero."
New Orleans saw 27 new cases reported Tuesday, with an infection rate of 0.75. The city uses 50 cases per day as a watermark for whether the virus is being contained, and an infection rate under 1.0 is considered good because it indicates the virus is dying off and not spreading through the population.
Gov. John Bel Edwards moved Louisiana back into Phase 3 of reopening last week.
Among the changes put in place outside of Orleans Parish, people are now able to sit at a bar to drink without ordering food. Standing at or gathering around a bar will still be banned for now.
Live music is also allowed indoors, but if anyone is singing or playing a wind instrument, capacity will be reduced from 75 percent to 50 percent. Everyone must be seated.
Conferences and conventions can begin again, but only with permission.
Small outdoor events, such as school fairs, are allowed to resume with crowd limitations. Larger festivals or events will need permission from the state.
Local areas can have more restrictions than the state, but they can't have less. The city of New Orleans has often had tighter restrictions than the rest of the state.
WWL-TV will carry Mayor Cantrell's press conference live on WWLTV.com and our social media channels on March 10 at 11 a.m.
► Get breaking news from your neighborhood delivered directly to you by downloading the new FREE WWL-TV News app now in the IOS App Store or Google Play.