Blogged by @thefineauthor
With the omicron variant still wreaking havoc on the world, the city of New Orleans has announced that it will not be removing its COVID-19 mandate despite Mardi Gras quickly approaching.
Last month, Ochsner Health, the largest health system in Louisiana, stated that a peak in hospitalizations related to omicron occurred on January 11th. Shortly after, City spokeswoman Beau Tidwell said that the COVID-19 infections were on the decline but that they couldn’t take any chances with the millions of visitors expected to converge on the city for Mardi Gras. The city confirmed that all COVID-19 mandates were to remain in place, and the indoor mask ordinance was also reinstated.
Fast forward to February, with the festivities just one month out, New Orleans has implemented even stricter rules for people visiting public spaces. February 1st marked the first day that all children in New Orleans must be fully vaccinated to enter public spaces, including public schools. With an influx of visitors from all over, restaurants, bars, and other tourist hot spots are bracing themselves to lose a considerable amount of business that they look forward to during the busy festival.
Per the mandate, everyone entering an indoor restaurant or entertainment venue is required to show proof of vaccination or, at minimum, a negative COVID-19 test. Large-scale outdoor events are also demanding a vax card for entry. One wildly popular restaurant, Dooky Chase, named after its founder chef Leah “Dooky” Chase, is already feeling the effects of the mandates.
Dooky Chase was the inspiration for Disney’s first Black princess, “Princess Tiana.” Tot-size fans of the character show up with their families dressed in their best costumes only to be turned away if the family cannot show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
“We have the little ones coming in dressed as Princess Tiana, and we sure don’t want to turn away any Princess Tiana’s at Ms. Chase’s restaurant. So, we’ve tried our best to let our customers know it’s the new guidelines for COVID,” manager Stella Chase told the PBS NewsHour.
Many businesses are depending on the traffic from this year’s event to help recoup losses from 2020 and last year when the celebration was drastically reduced. There were no parades, limited restaurant capacities, and bars that were shut down. Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, which are generally buzzing with people during the festival, were eerily silent. The slowdown hurt the city’s $10 billion hospitality industry.
Restaurateur Conrad Chura, the owner of Wakin’ Bakin’, says the strict policy has left him feeling like the “middleman” for the policy.
“No one asked me. They said you’ll enforce it, or I’ll pull your permit,” he revealed.
Mardi Gras will kick off on March 1st. Visitors planning on traveling to the city should contact any establishment they plan on dining at or staying in ahead of time to learn of any individual policies that may be in effect in addition to the citywide mandate. For those who are vaccinated, please have proof of vaccination or a recent COVID-19 negative test readily available to show.