NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is urging everyone to mask up and double down on social distancing measures.
Wednesday, she threatened to shut down the city again, if more people don’t start abiding by coronavirus restrictions.
Her warning comes at a time when the average daily number of new cases and hospitalizations across Louisiana are the highest they’ve been since the peak of the outbreak in mid-April.
The greater New Orleans region is experiencing slightly better trends than other regions of the state.
Still, as of Wednesday, the city had more than 1,700 confirmed cases of the virus with 529 deaths.
The mayor said the current upward trajectory in the city and across the state is cause for concern.
“If the city has to shut down, we will do that without any hesitation at all because the public health of our people will always be top priority,” Cantrell said.
Cantrell added, “We’ve been able to enjoy some level of relaxation because of how we have responded, but recently again, we have seen this uptick in cases attributed to community spread throughout the state.”
The state has identified new clusters of COVID-19 cases related to several graduation parties in New Orleans and bar gatherings near LSU in Baton Rouge.
City Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said the virus has recently been infecting a greater number of young people.
“Fifty percent of cases, new cases, recent cases, were among people younger than age 30,” Avegno said. “Ten percent were kids 18 and under. This is a huge shift in what we’ve been seeing.”
The city has begun cracking down on large gatherings where few people wear masks and phase 2 physical distancing rules and gathering size limits are not followed.
Public health officials call them super-spreader events, where there is a high risk of infection.
“We can’t go back because of the misguided acts of individuals who participate in uncontrolled gatherings that as we’ve seen can easily spark a huge super-spreader event, and that could push us all back,” Avegno said.
A new task force made up of members from the New Orleans Police Department, city code enforcement, state and city health departments, Alcohol Tobacco Control, State Fire Marshal’s Office, and other agencies will soon begin to respond to large gathering complaints and go after violators.
“Last week, we had to enforce our phase 2 gathering limits on an Airbnb party that was attended by many young people,” NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said. “We, the New Orleans Police Department, will not allow this to occur. We will shut it down, and we will hold those (organizers) accountable.”
Both the mayor and Dr. Avegno pointed out, they have not detected any new COVID-19 clusters related to recent protest marches in the city.
They continue to urge everyone to wear face coverings, stay 6 feet apart and avoid large, uncontrolled gatherings.
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