New Orleans Brings Back Indoor Mask Mandate Ahead of Mardi Gras
Ahead of what's expected to be another very different Mardi Gras celebration in the Big Easy this year, New Orleans has brought back its indoor face mask mandate.
"As we go about our daily lives and anticipate welcoming large crowds to the city in the coming weeks, we must implement all of these measures to remain safe and healthy," New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said in a statement regarding the announcement that went into effect Wednesday.
The new order comes as new cases and hospitalizations have been rising sharply as the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus moved across the city.
"Health care systems and schools — the bedrock of any thriving community — are once again stretched to the brink by this pandemic, and right now, everyone in our community feels its impact," Avegno said.
The weekly positivity rate for COVID-19 tests in New Orleans is above 31%
Last year, New Orleans scaled back the celebration, canceling its world-famous parades due to the pandemic.
This year, the city's official Mardi Gras celebrations are next month as Mardi Gras itself falls on March 1.
Mardi Gras is a religious marker between Three Kings Day and Ash Wednesday. Its name is French for Fat Tuesday and is meant as a celebration of food before the sacrificial season of Lent.
New Orleans already requires people to show proof of vaccination or results of a negative COVID-19 test to get into bars, restaurants, and other venues. At least one parade organization is requiring everyone riding on its floats to provide proof they've been vaccinated, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
Other cities also are moving forward with their 2022 celebrations, though with pandemic mitigation measures. Rio, known for its elaborate Carnival celebrations, has canceled the informal street parades that typically accompany its official samba parade and competition.