Schools & Parents – Final Bricks in the Wall To Build a COVID-Safe New Orleans

Correction: The previous version of this article confused The Academy of Sacred Heart with Sacred Heart University and inaccurately stated that Sacred Heart was requiring all students, faculty and staff who plan to be on campus in the fall to get the vaccine, except those claiming a medical or religious exemption. The Academy of Sacred Heart is not mandating vaccinations. 

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s announcement yesterday that proof of vaccination or a recent negative PCR test will be required for residents and visitors who wish to enter dining, fitness, indoor entertainment and performances spaces as well as large outdoor events is a good next step in long-term efforts to keep New Orleans up and running safely. New York City was the first to impose a vaccination card for business entry. San Francisco also recently enacted such requirements. 

Although many New Orleanians quickly criticized the mayor on social media as “LaToya tha Destroya,” she really had few other choices. Louisiana still has one of the fastest growing infection rates in the country and among the lowest rate of vaccinations. 

According to, Louisiana residents have a “severe risk” of getting the Delta variant. The state is already undergoing “severe physical and economic suffering from COVID” and will face a “harder and longer recovery.” Lucky for our economy, leisure visitors are still flooding the streets of the French Quarter. Unfortunately for us, most do not wear masks. Many shop owners are averse to causing a nasty confrontation by demanding customers mask-up.      

Only 60.2% of New Orleanians have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, slightly below the national average. That means after August 16, about 40% of us won’t be eligible to attend the Saints vs. Jaguars on August 23 or other games later in the season. Perhaps the new mandates will be an incentive to vax-hesitant individuals to join the realm of the vaccinated. It could sure make life easier for all.  

Readers must admit that getting the vaccination, wearing masks and having to present vax cards is quickly becoming a necessity of daily living in our new world order. The LA Wallet app is a smart and simple way to store and retrieve vax info and your driver’s license.

With the FDA set to give official approval to the Pfizer vaccine – which should serve as an encouragement for vax-hesitant citizens – coupled with a booster shot just becoming available for people with weakened immune systems, more people will be protected against COVID. 

The City’s wall of safety won’t be complete until more New Orleans children and their parents are vaccinated. Most colleges and universities have already moved in the right direction with requests for student vax information, mandatory masking and frequent testing.

Working in partnership with CrescentCare and NOLA-PS, the City of New Orleans is leading a $90K vaccination initiative to vaccinate public school youth ages 12-17. Only 13% of youth ages 12-17 have been fully vaccinated, and an additional 10% have received the first dose. NOLA-PS has already moved to require Central Office staff to get vaccinated. Leaders of the city’s 15 charter school groups should demand the same from their teachers and staff. Private schools and the Archdiocesan schools must also join the ranks of the fully vaccinated.

Parents are the ultimate brick in the wall. They – and other unvaccinated family members – are often passing the virus on to the infants, babies and young children currently filling up our hospitals. Parents with children under the current vaccination age (12) should be required to show their vaccination cards before their kids can enroll in daycare, pre-K or even elementary school. 

If that suggestion seems too harsh, let’s postpone all in-school classes for children under 12 until a vaccine becomes available for that age group. What’s the difference between parents who jeopardize  children’s lives by exposing them to drugs (via breast milk or any other means) and parents who needlessly expose their children to COVID-19? It ought to be a crime.  

The French Quarter Festival just cancelled its re-scheduled fall event because New Orleans is still not vaccinated enough to host large crowds indoors or outdoors. If we want to have Mardi Gras in 2022 as well as hundreds of festivals, graduations, proms, and other special events, everyone – elected officials, business leaders, parents and schools – must play a role in building that wall of safety together.

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