Mayor LaToya Cantrell called for non-essential businesses to close Monday amid increasing cases of the novel coronavirus in the state and city in a proclamation. The month-long order goes into effect at 6 a.m. Tuesday and includes gyms, shopping centers, reception halls and live performance venues.

“These operations shall cease,” she said at a press conference Monday afternoon.

Health facilities, grocery stores, corner stores, banks, gas stations and pharmacies will remain open. However, loitering outside of any of those businesses will be strictly enforced by police, officials said.

Her announcement followed Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ earlier announcement that ordered bars, casinos and movie theaters to close and restaurants to serve food only via carry-out or delivery.

“All public and private gatherings should be cancelled,” Cantrell added. 

Cantrell said the city expected the measures to directly impact about 45,000 service industry workers.

Asked at what point the city will consider the virus under control, Health Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said that will depend on testing. The city will not be able to measure the effectiveness of social distancing measures until it knows how many people are truly infected. The United States is “testing people at a fraction of the rate of other countries,” she added.

A pilot program, being run with the federal Deapartment of Health and Human Services and FEMA, to increase testing in the city, was supposed to go up this week. But Avegno said that the city is still waiting on more information from the federal government. She could not provide a specific timeline. Once it is online, the program will focus, at least initially, on health care workers, first responders and people at high risk of complications from the disease.

New Orleans City Councilwoman Helena Moreno addressed some concerns she said council members had received. “What’s recommended is that those who can work from home, should work from home. If businesses cannot have their employees work from home then ensure to distance employees in the office.”

New Orleans Police Superintendent Sean Ferguson his officers would strictly enforce the restrictions on both business and crowds.

“If you want to keep your license to operate, we urge you to comply with this order,” Ferguson said.

Monday’s announcements follow yesterday’s news of tighter restrictions on New Orleans restaurants and bars issued by Cantrell late in the day.

Cases of the novel coronavirus climbed to 136 on Monday, according to the Governor. 94 of those were in New Orleans. The first case in Louisiana was diagnosed a week ago. Three people have died in the state after contracting the virus, also known as COVID-19. 

Louisiana schools will be closed for at least one month. Across the nation, schools are closing and states are enforcing new restrictions on businesses. Across the globe, several countries have gone into weeks-long lockdowns and some national health systems have become overwhelmed.

Charles Maldonado contributed to this report.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...