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Reports on Louisiana politics, government and the people shaping state policy

AG Jeff Landry joins lawsuit against New Orleans COVID mask, vaccine mandates

Attorney General Jeff Landry has moved to join a lawsuit against New Orleans city officials seeking to strike down the city’s mask and vaccine mandates.

His office petitioned a state court to allow the attorney general to intervene in a lawsuit filed by residents of New Orleans and surrounding communities against Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Dr. Jennifer Avegno, the director of the New Orleans Health Department. The lawsuit claims the mandates have caused “social, economic and cultural harm.”

In his petition to join the suit, Andrews v. Cantrell, Landry claims that Cantrell lacks the authority to impose vaccine and mask manadates.

“Through her coercive tactics, the Mayor of New Orleans is trying to interfere with the healthcare choices of families,” Landry said in a statement. “Like the governor, who overrode the will of the people’s representatives and unlawfully mandated COVID shots on Louisiana’s students, the mayor is abusing her office.”

Landry is the state’s most prominent vaccine skeptic and leading campaigner against Gov. John Bel Edwards’ pandemic restrictions, criticizing public health measures and vaccine school requirements, aligning himself with the U.S.’s leading anti-vaccine activists and filing lawsuits against the governor and federal agencies over public health measures, including vaccine mandates.

He was among the attorneys general who joined a successful lawsuit against the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test rule,which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last month.

City officials told reporters this week that the mandates will stay in place through Mardi Gras, and they expanded Tuesday to include children ages 5 years and older.

The current rules require masks in all indoor spaces outside the home. Anyone wanting to go to a restaurant, gym or indoor sports arena has to show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test within the last 72 hours, or proof of full vaccination.

“The parents, guardians, and — most importantly — the children who rely upon services in the Crescent City deserve much better,” Landry said. “I hope the lawsuit successfully ends this attempt to force a medical procedure on these citizens.”

The suit comes one day after a new vaccine mandate took effect for New Orleans Public Schools, requiring that students 5 years old and up must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Copyright 2022 WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio. To see more, visit WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio.

Rosemary Westwood is the public reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.