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City, state officials urging NYE safety as thousands descend upon New Orleans

Record high COVID cases aren’t slowing down business in the French Quarter
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 10:36 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 30, 2021 at 11:54 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - City and state officials held press conferences Thursday to urge safety ahead of the New Year’s Eve holiday weekend.

The city of New Orleans is preparing for a busy holiday weekend.

In a press conference with police chief Shaun Ferguson, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell expressed optimism that the city would be capable of moving through the omicron-field surge without going into another shutdown, however, her office is having conversations to consider additional safety measures. Earlier this month, she said reinstating a mask mandate ahead of Mardi Gras was not off the table.

She says this more contagious variant is “not one that takes life, but one that disrupts.”

Leaders are encouraging people to mask up, get vaccinated, and get their booster shots to be safe and best protect themselves. Travelers say they feel safe coming to a city with strict public safety guidelines.

“We’ve been in this almost now two years. We’ve seen the movie over and over again,” Cantrell said. “It’s a real concern, but again, it goes back to masking up and getting vaccinated.”

Ferguson says police are ready to “do what we always do” to handle large crowds. He says police will have a visible presence on horseback, traffic bikes, and motorcycles throughout the city.

While the 2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl, all its festivities, and the New Orleans Saints game against the Carolina Panthers are expected to go on as scheduled at the Caesar’s Superdome this weekend, Louisiana is reporting record-high numbers of new COVID-19 cases, fueled by the more contagious omicron variant.

Very few people have canceled reservations and the rising number of cases hasn’t had any impact on business at hotels, which are at 90% capacity across the city.

But restaurants, bars, and smaller venues are beginning an all-too-familiar rotating schedule of closures and cleanings as service industry employees are hit with positive tests.

“New Year’s Eve was going to be our big reopening,” Doug Trager, talent buyer at The Maple Leaf, said. “Really, really looking forward to that, but just it just doesn’t make any sense right now.”

On the other side of town, in the French Quarter, CNN’s Don Lemon, Grammy-award-winning artists, and thousands of people from all over the country are expected to fill the streets for the annual Fleur De Lis drop and a Sugar Bowl parade.

Outside of the Caesar's Superdome for the Saints-Dolphins game on Dec. 26.
Outside of the Caesar's Superdome for the Saints-Dolphins game on Dec. 26.

Yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, urged people not to gather in groups of 40 or more.

“If your plans are to go to a 40-or-50-person New Year’s Eve Party, with all the bells and whistles, and everybody hugging and kissing and wishing each other a happy new year, I would strongly recommend that this year we do not do that,” Fauci said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

Tourists already in the city say they’re putting their worries aside.

“I am scared about COVID, but personally, for this experience to come down here... I think I put those worries aside,” said Alice Perry, who is visiting from New York.

City officials are requiring vaccines or negative tests and masks for large gatherings, both indoors and outdoors.

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