COVID-19 updates: Drive-thru testing, closures, rules for bars and restaurants, how to help

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Here’s the latest from the city on the quickly changing coronavirus situation in New Orleans.

If you’d like to help, here’s the city’s advice on how to donate and volunteer.

From the Mayor’s Office

Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Sunday outlined several actions the city of New Orleans is taking in coordination with local, state and federal partners in its continued response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Mayor Cantrell also continued to insist that residents practice safe behaviors such as social distancing and avoiding large gatherings like the ones that were shut down Saturday by the New Orleans Police Department.

“This is a crisis. This is real. You have to pay attention. The news this morning of a second death in Orleans Parish is heartbreaking, personally — and is additional tragic news for the people of our City. We are losing loved ones. We all have a role to play — every resident in this city,” said Mayor Cantrell. “‘Social distancing’ isn’t a buzzword — it’s a way to save lives and slow the spread of this infection in our community.”

As anticipated, the rate of cases is continuing to rise, and the numbers are rising at a greater rate than anticipated. As of Monday morning, there were 114 cases statewide, 79 in Orleans Parish. There have been two deaths.

On Saturday evening, Mayor Cantrell signed an order authorizing New Orleans’ participation in a federal pilot program to implement “drive-up” testing sites. Full details will be shared as they are finalized by federal partners. The program aims to be operational by midweek.

Mayor Cantrell also announced that all New Orleans Public Library locations will be closed until further notice, though employees will report to work and be available in anticipation of any additional facility needs during the response to the outbreak.

This was part of several changes to city services, many of which include a reorganization of operations at City Hall itself. As previously announced, effective today (Monday, March 16) access to City Hall will be limited. The essential work of government will proceed, Mayor Cantrell noted, but changes will be necessary in the immediate term. This includes restricting access to a single entrance and restricting the number of residents permitted onto any given floor at one time. (For more details, see below in the agency, facility and services breakdown.)

New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno cautioned residents about the exponentially rising number of presumptive-positive cases, which includes two confirmed fatalities.

“Based on the available data, it appears the rate of infection here in New Orleans is increasing much faster than other cities in the U.S. That said, we need more information to fully understand the rate of spread. We expect to see testing ramping up among our private healthcare facilities, we are also developing additional testing programs,” said Dr. Avegno. “That will certainly help us be better able to compare what is happening here to other places around the world.

“But from what we know right now, there is significant community spread in New Orleans that has already resulted in two deaths. Cases among the elderly and chronically ill are growing,” Dr. Avegno continued. “As you know, there are a number of cases at senior living facilities and there are more people under investigation. These are the people who are at the greatest risk of severe illness. Even if YOU don’t become severely ill, if you catch COVID-19 you can pass it onto your loved ones who may be among the most vulnerable, high-risk people in our community.”


New Orleans Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness (NOHSEP), through its emergency preparedness campaign NOLA Ready, has established a “resources” listing on its website to better inform vulnerable residents of assistance opportunities in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Visit the page here.

Residents can also stay informed by texting COVIDNOLA to 888777 to receive alerts or visit Residents can also get news releases from the city of New Orleans by visiting the News section of and subscribing here.


New Orleans Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

As most hospitals are not allowing visitors to enter their facilities and to keep patients and providers safe, until further notice NOEMS will be restricting who can accompany patients to the hospital in its ambulances. Please understand EMS is doing this out of an abundance of caution during the COVID-19 outbreak.


The city of New Orleans will enact an emergency access plan to keep city government operational and accessible to the public while maintaining the recommended social distancing and limiting the risk involved with large groups of people congregating in a single area. It is important to note that this plan can and will evolve and change subject to the changing and fluid dynamics and circumstances we are faced with.


Employee access

There will be four restricted access points employees may use to enter City Hall. Employees may not allow members of the public to use any of the restricted access entrances and should direct them to the main public entrance on Perdido Street. Note that an employee ID card is required to gain entrance through these locations:

  • Entrance near City Council Chambers (Loyola Avenue)
  • Entrance through the City Hall parking garage
  • Entrance through City Council parking lot (LaSalle Street)
  • Entrance near the snack bar (Perdido Street)

Employees may also continue to use the main public entrance at 1300 Perdido St.

Visitor access

The only public access point will be the main entrance at 1300 Perdido St. Pinnacle Security officers will continue to operate the screening equipment in the lobby of City Hall and staff all normal City Hall posts.

Approximately 25 visitors will be allowed, per floor, of City Hall at any one time. Currently, assigned staff from Code Enforcement and Office of Community Development will manage the influx of visitors. Additional NOHSEP Grounds Patrol Officers will be assigned to City Hall to assist with crowd control, roving patrols, or the check-in process, as needed. We are currently reviewing and planning the operational logistics plan to provide temperature checks at each of these entrances for all employees and visitors. Visitors will be informed of the check-in and check-out processes upon arrival.

Temperature screening

Temperature screening will be conducted for both employees and visitors inside City Hall. Visitors will be provided instructions on this process, including whether they will allowed to access City services in person depending on the temperature readout. This is conducted by EMS VIGOR personnel. If a person is denied entrance to City Hall pursuant to these criteria, they will receive written medical guidance and be verbally directed to seek medical advice regarding risk of exposure to the virus, from an outside qualified emergency health care provider.

Safety & Permits

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of Safety and Permits is taking steps to reduce the number of in-person visitors to City Hall. The Department is asking all applicants to submit their application, materials, and general questions to the Department via email. The Department will continue to accept in-person applications, but please be advised wait times are expected to be significant as only 25 members of the public can access each floor of City Hall at one time.

Please note that special event permits will not be issued until further notice (with the exception of funerals), this includes re-schedule events that have been cancelled. Those with general special event questions can contact

The following provides general information and instructions for applicants:

General information 

  • All applicants should make every effort to submit their application materials via email
  • Representatives from Safety and Permits are available via phone or e-mail to answer general questions
  • Phone: 504-658-7125
  • Safety and Permits email:
  • HDLC email:
  • VCC email:
  • City Planning Commission email:
  • Funerals:
  • The Department will remain closed on Wednesdays to continue cyber-attack recovery efforts

New Orleans Recreation Development (NORD) Commission

All NORD programming and events will be cancelled and all 12 recreation centers and other indoor facilities, including the four indoor pools, will be closed until further notice. Amid closing of indoor facilities, NORD’s open-air parks and playgrounds will remain open for use to patrons at their own risk, allowing the community some recreational use and activity.

New Orleans Public Libraries (NOPL)

All New Orleans Public Library locations will be closed to the public. Library employees are to report to work and will be assigned duties.

Civil Service

Civil Service is cancelling large-scale testing as well as employee growth and development courses until further notice. However, Civil Service will continue to hold walk-in testing for police recruits on a first-come first-serve basis to the number of people who can be adequately spaced in the test room. Disciplinary appeal hearings will be held on a case-by-case basis only. Job-seekers are strongly encouraged to apply online instead of in person.

Other city facilities

City Council Chambers: All public Council meetings through at least the end of March have been suspended.

Boards & Commissions: Until further notice, all public meetings of city boards and commissions are postponed.

Saenger Theatre: Postponement all performances of “Mean Girls,” March 17-22.

Joseph M. Bartholomew Municipal Golf Course: Normal hours of operation except for access to the Players’ Lounge, which will be closed until further notice.

Juvenile Court: Will remain open and adhere to the policies adopted by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Normal hours of operation for:

  • Healthcare for the Homeless
  • Low Barrier Shelter
  • JOB1


New Orleans Public Schools (NOLA-PS)

NOLA-PS, in collaboration with charter school leaders and the mayor’s agencies, is coordinating a multi-pronged effort to ensure child nutrition services are available to families during the prolonged school closure. Though some school sites are starting food nutrition service on Monday, March 16, the District anticipates a citywide child nutrition program to be available to families by March 23.

Specifically NOLA-PS asks that the following information be shared publicly:

  • Families wishing to access information on where child nutrition resources should visit the District’s webpage which is being updated as more access points become available. This webpage has the most up-to-date listing of where food services are available. That webpage is located here.
  • Food Nutrition Services this coming week, of March 16-March 20:
    • By Monday, March 16, no less than seven sites will be operational.
    • By March 18, no less than 22 sites will be operational.
  • Families who are unable to access online resources should call United Way’s 211 information system which has the latest information about finding the Second Harvest food pantry nearest you. If you’re in Orleans Parish, dial 211 for assistance.
  • Key details on students accessing child nutrition are:
    • Students must be present to receive meals.
    • Child nutrition resources are available to those under 18 years of age and those who currently attend a public school.
    • Students who are over 18 years of age and are currently enrolled in public schools will also be allowed to access the community feeding programming. Schools will be contacting those families directly to ensure they are aware of the services available to them.


New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA)

RTA issued the following statement: “We are going to request the public’s cooperation to use transit for essential travel only (work, healthcare, nutrition). This will apply to all modes. Media and customer messaging now underway. Effective Tuesday, March 17, we will implement a reduced ‘Saturday’ schedule, which is approximately 80 percent of normal service. Ferry service will remain on a Monday-through-Friday schedule.”


Mayor  Cantrell, working in collaboration with the City of New Orleans’ partners in the hospitality industry, has issued the following guidelines for bars and restaurants throughout the city in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. These guidelines are expected to be implemented immediately, and will be enforced.Mayor LaToya Cantrell, working in collaboration with the City of New Orleans’ partners in the hospitality industry, has issued the following guidelines for bars and restaurants throughout the city in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. These guidelines are expected to be implemented immediately, and will be enforced.

Read the guidelines here.


New Orleans Municipal/Traffic Courts

New Orleans Municipal/Traffic Courts will close for the next 30 days effective immediately. The judges will continue handling and processing inmates through first appearance hearings.

Orleans Parish Sheriff Office

Orleans Parish Sheriff Office will not transport inmates to or from Courts.

Criminal District Court

All criminal proceedings are suspended and Criminal District Court is closed from March 16 until April 10. All jurors who are serving in the month of March 2020 have been dismissed. All jurors summoned for the month of April will be notified regarding reporting for jury service. Sections of the court will schedule dockets to reduce the number of people in the building at a time. Criminal District Court Commissioners will be called as scheduled.

Civil District Court

Suspension of all jury trials until April 24, with further orders to follow. First and Second City Court have suspended all residential evictions until April 24, 2020, with further instructions to follow. The Court may allow oral arguments under some circumstances.

On Monday, March 16, Magistrate Court will hold First Appearance at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Please check the Court website daily.

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