New Orleans Casino, Superdome Require COVID-19 Vaccine or Negative Test

Posted on: August 13, 2021, 02:01h. 

Last updated on: August 14, 2021, 11:40h.

Guests at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino and other indoor New Orleans sites will have to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative test to enter, Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced this week. 

Harrah's New Orleans
Shrubbery and a Harrah’s sign adorn the exterior of the hotel-casino in downtown New Orleans. Harrah’s New Orleans is the only land-based casino in Louisiana. (Image: Kate Henry)

The strict health mandate applies to restaurants, bars, and other indoor venues, including the city’s land-based casino, racetrack, and Caesars Superdome, according to nola.com. The mandate begins Monday, though enforcement won’t start until a week later, on Aug. 23. 

With this requirement, New Orleans becomes the first Southern city and one of only a few nationwide to require private businesses to ban those who aren’t inoculated or virus-free, nola.com reported. New York City and San Francisco recently announced vaccine mandates. Los Angeles city attorneys are drafting a similar mandate.

In San Francisco, patrons and workers at bars, restaurants, and other indoor venues will need proof of a full vaccination, according to the Associated Press. New York is requiring proof of at least one dose.

The mandate in New Orleans comes as hospitalizations and deaths are soaring in the area. Hospitals in New Orleans are crowded with COVD-19 patients, almost all of whom are unvaccinated, according to nola.com. The New Orleans-area has had its highest COVID-19 inpatient count since April 2020, one month after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Last month, the New Orleans mayor reinstated the city’s mask mandate, which had been in place for almost a year during the coronavirus’ first three waves.

“Thanks to the delta variant, the COVID pandemic is once again raging out of control,” the mayor said.

‘Worst-Case Scenario’ 

On Thursday, Cantrell said the decision to require vaccines or proof of a negative COVID-19 test is an effort to avoid a return to the lockdowns of 2020, nola.com reported.

“One of the things I am definitely not in favor of is a shutdown,” Cantrell said. “Unlike this time last year, we have a tool that we did not have.”

The city already has seen several events, including the fan-favorite New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, canceled or postponed again this year. 

Jennifer Avegno, the city’s health director, told nola.com the new mandate could help in getting festivals and other events back on track.

“Like me, I suspect you are tired, you are frustrated, you are disappointed that the promise of an end to the pandemic this summer is now out of reach,” she said. “This is truly the worst-case scenario: a variant of the virus exponentially more infectious, and a large statewide and regional population of unvaccinated individuals.”

So far, New Orleans has not implemented capacity limits on casinos or other indoor venues. Capacity limits are not in place for gambling halls in any of the 25 states where commercial casinos operate, according to the Associated Press.

Free Vaccines at Saints Games

The city’s popular NFL team, the New Orleans Saints, kick off their home preseason schedule at the Caesars Superdome on Aug. 23, the day COVID-19 enforcement begins. The Saints face the Jacksonville Jaguars in that game. On Sept. 12, the Saints open the regular season at home against the Green Bay Packers.

In a statement, the Saints said fans will need to comply with the new COVID-19 mandates. During home games, the Saints are joining with Ochsner Health System to provide free vaccination shots outside the Superdome, nola.com reported.

“We understand some will be frustrated, as are we, that we find ourselves in this position,” the team said in a statement.