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Jump in virus cases may lead to mask rules in New Orleans | Louisiana News

By KEVIN McGILL, Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A nine-fold increase in new COVID-19 cases reported in the past two weeks and an increase in the percentage of tests positive for the disease have prompted New Orleans officials to consider new measures mitigation, a city spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and city health officer Dr Jennifer Avegno will announce their plans on Wednesday, Cantrell spokesperson Beau Tidwell said in a weekly briefing at town hall.

Tidwell wouldn’t give details. But he said when questioned that the rules involving masks are “certainly a strong possibility”.

“All options are on the table,” Tidwell said.

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The city relaxed many restrictions in May, including a city-wide masking requirement. The policy at the time was that fully vaccinated people were no longer required to wear masks while unvaccinated people “should” wear masks. Companies currently have the option of requiring masks. Masks are still mandatory in government buildings, hospitals, and public transportation.

The seven-day average of new cases reported daily in New Orleans has risen to 99, from 11 two weeks ago. The positivity rate among those tested exceeded 5%, one of the thresholds the city has used in the past to assess mitigation measures. Most cases are caused by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

While mitigation measures are being considered, Tidwell said getting more people vaccinated is key to stopping the spread.

New Orleans has a relatively high vaccination rate compared to the rest of the state. More than 63% of those eligible for vaccination received at least one injection. But, he said, the numbers need to improve. He noted that New Orleans is a tourist destination and said residents should be vaccinated to avoid becoming infected from unvaccinated visitors.

Last week, state health officials sounded the alarm over what they called “surprising” jumps in coronavirus infections last week. Hospitalizations in Louisiana hit a low of 242 in June, the lowest since early 2020, when the state became a hotspot for COVID-19. As of Tuesday, the number of hospitalizations was 779.

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