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New Orleans restaurants already feeling impacts of vaccine mandate expansion

The expansion now requires children ages five and up to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter restaurants and certain businesses.
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 3:57 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2022 at 5:21 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The new year comes with new guidelines for New Orleans area restaurants. Children ages five and up must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to eat inside. The expanded mandate went into effect on Mon. Jan. 3, and it’s already impacting businesses.

“Sometimes people call but most of the time people just come in and if they’re not vaccinated, then we ask to see proof, then they leave,” said Conrad Chura, owner of Wakin’ Bakin’ restaurant in the French Quarter. “Every sale kind of matters every day, and it’s always hard to turn people away when we’re open four days a week. We’re trying to get back to seven days a week. We’ve been trying for almost two years now.”

The state on Monday reported over 31,000 new cases of COVID-19 over the New Years Eve weekend, some 20,000 more than any three-day reporting period of the pandemic.

Chura said it hasn’t been easy for restaurants like his since the pandemic began.

“It is kind of hard,” he said. “We just had some people come in from Kansas. It’s different rules. It’s different rules in the city of New Orleans than everywhere else, and people don’t quite understand that, and they’re caught off guard and there’s not much they can do but go to Metairie.”

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City leaders said the mandate is just one way to increase vaccinations.

“Pediatric vaccination rates need to catch up to adults,” health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said.

In a statement, a city spokesperson said:

“As you have seen throughout the pandemic, our Code Enforcement team will handle enforcement as necessary and will make site visits where appropriate. We continue to be encouraged by the level of compliance we have seen and the way our local businesses are embracing the spirit of this effort. We want to increase vaccinations and we want to save lives. Residents are always encouraged to report any non-compliance to 311. As you also know, the demand for COVID tests has increased significantly due to the Omicron variant. Thousands of rapid tests are coming our way through the federal and state government, and they will likely arrive this week.”

As visitors figure out the new guideline for dining in New Orleans, so are the business and restaurant owners.

“At this point in the game, people who want to get vaccinated, they are going to. If they are choosing to get their children [vaccinated], then they’re gonna choose that too,” said Chura. “And if they’re not, then they’re just going to go somewhere else to eat.”

Chura said restaurants like his aren’t thriving - right now, they’re still trying to survive.

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