New Orleans Likely to Reopen more Slowly than Rest of Louisiana

Αssociated Press

Graduates of New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School class of 2020 parade in vehicles after holding a drive-in graduation ceremony as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, outside Delgado Community College in New Orleans, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans will likely ease restrictions on gatherings and businesses more slowly than the rest of Louisiana, a city health official said Friday.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to announce Monday whether Louisiana will further ease restrictions when current emergency orders expire June 5.

But New Orleans — where huge Mardi Gras crowds in late February are suspected of contributing to a deadly COVID-19 outbreak — will likely move more slowly than the state, city health department director Jennifer Avegno said.

“New Orleans has to be more careful,” Avegno said during a live-streamed news conference. “Because what happens regionally affects us more than it does a lot of other places. Not just regionally within Louisiana but regionally within the Gulf South.”

One concern she cited was large Memorial Day gatherings along the Gulf Coast in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi that might have included New Orleans residents. She noted a photo of large gatherings on a northwest Florida beach.

“There is no social distancing. This kind of sight gives public health folks a whole lot of heartburn,” Avegno said.

City officials want more time to collect and analyze data to determine the effect of New Orleans residents’ visits to such Memorial Day events before further loosening restrictions.