BAYHAM: New Orleans Finally Drops Its Mask Mandate, And It’s Political

On Friday October 29th Mayor LaToya Cantrell will end her imposed indoor mask mandate in Orleans Parish, with the decision coming the day after Governor John Bel Edwards lifted the statewide mask mandate.

Typically New Orleans, which is far above the statewide average for COVID vaccinations, generally drags their restriction-loosening several days after the state goes forward but on this occasion the same City Hall folks who were tut-tutting fans for not wearing masks at the delayed Saints regular season opening game a few weeks ago have quickened their pace to conform with the State Capitol, ostensibly before Halloween though there is likely another factor in play.

Coincidentally the first day of early voting in the city elections where Mayor Cantrell appears on the ballot, begins on Saturday October 30th.

Surely there’s no coincidence, right?

While one can thus far only speculate why Mayor Cantrell issued decidedly draconian rules related to masks and public access to public places (her vax card and COVID test inspections by businesses are still in force, so we are nowhere near the point of what passes for normalcy in New Orleans) the politics and not so much the science appear to be the driving force towards these election eve mask rules and event permitting relaxations.

Hinting that there will be a Mardi Gras in 2022, the Halloween-themed Krewe of Boo rolled through the French Quarter and Warehouse District last weekend, the first parade to take to the streets of New Orleans since Zulu and Rex ambled down their respective routes on Carnival Day 2020.

A final decision about Mardi Gras has not yet been made (or at least publicly released) nor have the anticipated restrictions on what route, vaccination guideline, and other rules/limits the parading organizations will need to acquiesce to in order to participate.

Perhaps this announcement will be promulgated a few days if not hours before the November 13th mayoral primary, though reserving the devil in the details until after the primary or even later in the event the combined vote of challengers without profile accrue enough anti-incumbent vote so as to send the election into a second round.

Nebulous hope for returned liberties and joie de vivre make for more enticing fodder to a weary electorate than another dose of arbitrarily crafted political edicts that have exorcised much of the city’s soul and complicated the most mundane of activities, all fronted by a bespectacled figure in a white medical coat.

In light of the city’s heavy-handed enforcement of mask and essentially public coercion vaccination policies, the public is well within reason to eye with cynicism this sudden shift in posture by City Hall as politically motivated.

The city’s Magic 8 Ball approach to the ever changing Superdome capacity limits during the 2020 Saints season made little sense especially since the entire top level of the stadium sat vacant, costing the city revenue and denying wage earning opportunities to those willing to work.

Doubtlessly the suspension of the city’s mask mandate will improve people’s spirits and the mayor and city council hope to receive a political dividend during this reprieve of having their eye glasses fog up or avoid being narc’d during a Saints game by a Superdome staffer wielding binoculars and a walkie talkie.

We’ll see if the electorate uses this opportunity to directly extend the mask mandate suspension by turning out the current administration in next month’s city balloting or sheepishly express their gratitude and appreciation to those who have returned, at least for the time being, a modicum of their pre-COVID liberties.

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