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City of New Orleans advises people to wear a mask indoors

"Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should wear a mask indoors when with people who are not in their immediate household," the city Tweeted.

NEW ORLEANS — The City of New Orleans is strongly advising people to wear a mask indoors whether they are vaccinated or not when they are with people not from their immediate household.

The "mask advisory" comes as the city of New Orleans sees a jump in COVID cases and hospitalizations with the delta variant.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said that the city went from an average of about 11-and-a-half cases per day on July 5 to an average of 104 cases per day two weeks later.

"That's a nine-fold increase in two weeks," she said, while warning about the delta variant. "It's more aggressive. It's (potentially) deadlier and it's in our community."

Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the city's health director, said she is also seeing a jump in emergency room treatment of COVID. 

"I hadn't seen a COVID patient in weeks come to the ER," she said. "I saw six in one day (recently). Just me." 

The City of New Orleans has a high level of vaccination compared to other areas of the state, with 69 percent of adults having at least one shot and 63 percent having completed the vaccination series, but, both Cantrell and Avegno said we could do better.

Once again both leaders emphasized if the city wants to have the rescheduled Fall festivals like the French Quarter Festival, Jazz Fest and Saints games, the numbers need to be reduced substantially.

"If we do this, this wonderful Fall that we've got planned - our festivals, our football, will proceed as planned. And that's what we all want... And it's very much within our grasp," Avegno said. 

New Orleans is an outlier in the state, which as a whole has a vaccination rate lower than 40%.

"COVID is a preventable disease, just like measles, just like mumps," Avegno said. "And yet, we have to continue to rely on masks because some in our community refuse to get vaccinated."

In Louisiana, fewer than 2 million of the state's eligible residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, despite multiple vaccines being available for free. 

New Orleans health leaders fear the delta variant is encroaching from other parishes with lagging vaccination rates, posing a danger for the city's unvaccinated residents and the possibility that vaccinated people may still catch the delta variant. 

Vaccines such as the COVID-19 ones are highly effective, but as with all vaccines cannot guarantee 100% immunity from the virus they are designed to protect against. 

The sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is attributed to the highly contagious delta variant, which is the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Louisiana and much of the United States.

New Orleans had some of the most restrictive measures in the state in place during the initial COVID outbreak and subsequent spikes and was one of the last places in Louisiana to ease restrictions.

The City only lifted its mask restrictions in May, well after the state eased restrictions amid a decrease in cases following the third spike at the beginning of the year. 

The delta variant comes just as New Orleans' businesses, bars and restaurants have reopened and as many still struggle with enough staffing.

And Wednesday's coronavirus update from state health officials did little to ease worries in New Orleans. More than 5,300 new cases were reported since Tuesday, with the majority of them coming from the Baton Rouge and Northshore regions. 

LDH reports 237 new cases in New Orleans Wednesday. in the past seven days, more than 900 cases have been reported in Orleans Parish. 

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