In response to an increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant, New Orleans has mandated that all city employees and contractors be vaccinated and that a citywide mask mandate be reinstated.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced the news rules Friday at a news conference.
“Thanks to the Delta variant, the COVID pandemic is once again raging out of control,” Cantrell said, citing 35,115 cases and 814 deaths reported in Orleans Parish since the pandemic began.
Over the past week alone, there has been over 1,000 new cases in New Orleans, Cantrell said.
The average daily cases surged from 104 last week to 272 this week, she added.
“This is a very dangerous number,” Cantrell said. “We have been here before we’ve seen the movie over again, and what was once unpreventable, today is preventable, and it’s through our people getting vaccinated.
The COVID-19 positivity rate is at 10.7% and was 6.5% two days ago, she continued.
“This touches everyone in our community, but with a very laser focus on young children in our community,” Cantrell said. “Our children are dying, from 2-weeks-old, to 2-years-old, to 4-years old.
Cantrell emphasised the alarming rate at which COVID-19 has increased in Louisiana and New Orleans, putting a strain on hospital and other emergency resources. She also stated that she signed an emergency contract routed through the city’s Office of Homeland Security to increase capacity to respond to 911 calls in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
Along with New York City and federal agencies, the city is among the first to require vaccinations for its employees and contractors.
California has also promoted employee vaccination, requiring all state employees and healthcare workers to show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once a week.
New Orleans’ mask policy requiring face coverings in public was first implemented in June 2020. Under the new mandate, everyone is required to wear masks when indoors with people outside their household.
A separate policy has required masks also be worn at large outdoor gatherings.
Along with state policies, private companies, such as Walmart and Disney, have required that some employees be vaccinated, following similar announcement from Google, Facebook, Uber and others, The New York Times reported.
The Walmart vaccine mandate applies to employees at its headquarters and managers who travel in the United States, not employees in stores, clubs and distribution and fulfillment centers.
Walmart’s retail and warehouse workers are not covered by collective bargaining units.
At Disney, the vaccine mandate applies to salaried and non-union hourly U.S. employees, with the provision that unvaccinated workers already on site have 60 days to become fully vaccinated. Before starting work, new hires must be fully vaccinated.
According to The New York Times, Disney has begun discussions with labour unions about mandatory vaccinations.
Because of the more contagious Delta variant, the theme park company has also announced that it will reinstate its mask mandate.
Meanwhile, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order to prevent mask mandates for school-age children, saying parents should have the freedom to choose whether or not their children wear masks.
All of Florida is considered a high transmission area, except for Glades County, which is a substantial transmission area, according to a CDC map.
In the Washington, D.C., area, health officials have replenished contract tracers to curb COVID-19 infections, which have reached their highest point since May and could lead to reinstating widespread restrictions, like the new mask order in the capital.
The United States recorded a seven-day moving average of 77,275 cases Friday, an increase of 150% over the past 14 days, according to a New York Times analysis. There were 301 deaths, a 10% increase over two weeks.
Louisiana has the highest rate of cases in the United States, with 89 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Florida, with 74. Louisiana also has one of the lowest rates of fully vaccinated people, at 37 percent. Alabama and Mississippi have the lowest rates at 34%.
Florida has the highest hospitalisation rate in the country, with 37 per 100,000 people, and 49 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. Nevada has the highest rate of deaths, at 0.44 per 100,000 people, and a vaccination rate of 44 percent.
According to the Johns Hopkins global map, the United States has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths worldwide, with over 34.9 million cases and over 613,000 deaths.
Although there are some “vaccine breakthrough cases,” vaccines remain highly effective at protecting people from getting COVID-19 and becoming severely ill from it as they are “much less likely to get sick,” according to the CDC.
According to the CDC, 49.5% of people in the United States are fully vaccinated and 57.4% have received at least one dose of a two-shot vaccine.
White House chief of staff Ronald Klain tweeted Saturday COVID-19 vaccination rates have recently increased.
“First time we’ve had four days in a row, over 700K shots, in a long stretch,” Klain said in the tweet. “About 3M people got their first shot in the past seven days — also a significant increase.”