New Orleans Officials Urge Residents to Mask Up
COVID-19 Cases in New Orleans are on the rise once again, and officials are urging residents to adopt common-sense mitigation measures to slow the spread
Following the first French Quarter Fest in two years and an incredible Jazz Fest week that drew 475,000 visitors o the New Orleans area, it is likely no surprise that COVID-19 cases are now steadily on the rise. In a press conference today, New Orleans health officials “strongly” urged a return to masking indoors.
Based on federal guidelines, the city reached the medium level of risk for COVID-19 this week, with cases slowly rising since April. Though hospitalizations are remaining low compared to past surges thus far, health officials say that employing mitigation measures now could prevent the surge from worsening, and are part of learning to live with the virus.
“The virus isn’t going away,” Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the New Orleans Health Department said. “We’ve got to anticipate future surges, but they can be ripples and not tsunamis.”
With festival season in full swing, and several more on the calendar - including New Orleans Pride, Essence Fest, and Southern Decadence - taking mitigation measures now could help to prevent the city from being forced to implement restrictions or mandates, although those measures aren’t currently on the table.
“I am confident we will be able to get ahead of this without a mandate,” Dr. Avegno said.
Those types of restrictions aren’t likely to do much good at this point anyway. Those who would follow them are most likely to adopt mitigation measures themselves without the need for mandates, and the addition of a mandate isn’t likely to sway anyone else.
“We’re moving into a time where everyone has been through this for two years,” said Tulane University epidemiologist Susan Hassig. “We know what needs to be done to protect ourselves and protect those we care about.”
More Free COVID Tests Available
In order to facilitate mitigation measures, health officials announced that the city will distribute at-home tests door-to-door and will once again hand out high-quality masks at fire stations and libraries. Around 15,000 tests will be available. In addition, the federal government has announced the expansion of its at-home test distribution program, with US households now able to order an additional eight free tests through the US Postal Service.
What to Do If You Test Positive
If you do test positive, it is important to remember that treatments are now available to help with your symptoms. Antiviral medications like Paxlovid, manufactured by Pfizer, can reduce your risk of hospitalization and death by up to 90 percent if you are unvaccinated, and also reduces severe outcomes in vaccinated individuals as long as you receive it within the first five days of symptoms.
Paxlovid is available for free with a prescription from your doctor. There are also two federal “test-to-treat” clinics in New Orleans that can give you a prescription:
CVS at Claiborne Ave and Napoleon Ave
DePaul Community Health Centers
Please call 1-800-232-0233 to schedule an appointment at these locations.
“This is a critical way to keep our hospitals going and to prevent the flood of patients and the breakdown of the system that we’ve seen in previous surges,” Dr. Avegno said.
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