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New Orleans to lift mask mandate ahead of Halloween weekend

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the mask mandate would be suspended on Oct. 29, just ahead of Halloween weekend.

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans is largely ending a mandate requiring residents and visitors wear masks indoors. 

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Wednesday that the mandate will end Friday, just ahead of the Halloween weekend. The move brings New Orleans in line with the rest of the state which also lifted its statewide indoor mask mandate this week. Masks are still required for some K-12 schools, public transportation, and healthcare facilities across Louisiana.

The announcement from Cantrell and Gov. John Bel Edwards comes as infections of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus continue to fall. The mask mandate was implemented in late July as the fourth surge of the COVID-19 pandemic packed hospitals. On Tuesday, Edwards ended the state's mandate, saying the worst of the latest surge appeared to be over.

Hospitalizations and new cases have been on a declining track for weeks, down 90% from their peak levels.

As of Wednesday, the state was reporting 310 hospitalizations. In New Orleans, more than 60% of the population is fully vaccinated and more than 75% of those eligible for the shots have finished their vaccination treatment. 

“The indoor mask mandate that was in place over the past several months helped us reduce the surge in cases we saw due to the Delta variant,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the city's health director, in a statement. “Even though the numbers are currently low, we must remind our residents that this pandemic is not over and remains dangerous for all that may come in contact with the virus.”

Despite the end of the city's mask mandate, the New Orleans Health Department is still encouraging residents to wear their masks while inside in public spaces, such as grocery stores and restaurants, especially when social distancing is not possible. 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.