Today (Friday, May 1), Mayor LaToya Cantrell outlined for residents her administrations first steps toreopen parts of the City in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We know everyone is eager to reopen,” Mayor Cantrell said. “It’s not going back to normal; it’s what we’re calling ‘the new normal.’ It will be the data and not the date that drives not only the decision but the phased approach to reopen the City of New Orleans. Today, we are outlining what those guidelines will be for the City.”
Mayor Cantrell emphasized that public health and safety will continue to drive the City’s response to COVID-19. With sustained low case numbers, ramped-up testing and other key milestones, the New Orleans may begin to ease restrictions in phases.
“Over the past several weeks, we have seen the number of new cases in our City trend downwards while watching our public health and healthcare systems increase capacity,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, Director, New Orleans Health Department. “While we believe we are on track to be able to start reopening parts of our economy in a few weeks, this does not mean that our lives will go back to normal as we know it. We will be focusing on opening our lowest-risk businesses while still staying at home as much as possible, maintaining proper social distancing measures, and working to protect the most vulnerable New Orleanians.”
According to data from the state Health Department, New Orleans has seen an increase of 43 cases to 6,495 and three additional deaths for a total of 437 for Friday, May 1.
Specific public health milestones must be met before the City will begin to ease restrictions and progress from one phase to another. If these criteria are not met or if there is a spike in cases or deaths, it may be necessary to move back to stricter measures, Avegno said.
“Once we feel comfortable that we are able to meet these guidelines, we will move into Phase One, she said, adding that the exactly what the phases will look like is still developing. “This has been a difficult few months, and it’s going to continue to be difficult. This is not going to be easy.”
Those milestones include:
- Decline in cases — Sustained trend of low and declining new cases
- Increased testing capabilities — Supplies, staffing, and lab capacity to consistently test 4 percent to 5 percent of the population each month. Dr. Avegno says that means testing 500 to 600 New Orleanians a day.
- Robust isolation procedures — Robust contact tracing, monitoring, and isolation capacity to rapidly isolate new cases and their close contacts
- Healthcare capacity — Healthcare system with adequate capacity to treat both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients without requiring surge capacity, including staffing, facilities, PPE, and equipment
The city’s phases for a safe reopening are closely aligned with those set by the State of Louisiana and the White House. Mayor Cantrell’s “Stay Home” order is in effect through at least May 15. Residents are mandated to stay home except for essential needs.
Phase One will ease the stay-at-home order and ease restrictions on some low-risk operations, while implementing limits on occupancy, social distancing measures, and requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE). Sector-specific guidelines will be in place to ensure safe operations. High-risk residents, like seniors and people with serious medical conditions should continue to stay home. People who can effectively work from home should continue to do so. When criteria are met, the city may ease restrictions and progress to Phase Two.
Phase Two will ease restrictions on medium risk operations, while continuing limits on occupancy, social distancing measures, and requirements for PPE. Large gatherings will continue to be prohibited due to the significant risk of rapid spread through groups. High-risk residents, like seniors and people with serious medical conditions should continue to stay home.
Phase Three will occur with a vaccine or widespread immunity in the population. It will largely resemble pre-COVID-19 life, although some restrictions may remain necessary.
Watch the mayor’s live press conference here.
Mayor Assembles Reopening New Orleans Advisory Committee
Mayor Cantrell has established an advisory panel that will develop an approach to reopening the city. The New Orleans Business Alliance will work with the city to coordinate the work of the advisory panel on behalf of the Mayor. Members of the panel include:
- Tanya Blunt-Haynes, Friends Salon & Spa
- Susan Brennan, Second Line Stages
- Mavis Early, Greater New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association
- Joe Exnicios, Hancock Whitney Bank
- Vaughn Fauria, NewCorp
- Michael Fitts, Tulane University
- Trivia Frazier, Obatala Sciences
- Andy Kopplin, Greater New Orleans Foundation
- Calvin Mackie, STEM NOLA
- Alden J. McDonald Jr., Liberty Bank and Trust
- Rick Tallant, Shell Oil
- Warner Thomas, Ochsner Health System
- Greg Tillery, We Dat’s Chicken & Shrimp