October 1, 2021

My son, the confirmed lounge lizard, recently made the surprising announcement that he was joining his high school cross country running team this fall. A few days later, he added another surprise: he had to be vaccinated to participate.

As of mid-September, no school–preK through 12th grade–requires student vaccinations. Extracurricular activities like athletics, however, are different. The LHSAA (Louisiana High School Athletic Association) has remained neutral on the topic of vaccination, preferring to allow mandates to occur on a local level. In New Orleans, most public and parochial schools have mandated vaccinations to participate in sports; if a team does not vaccinate, it must forfeit games, and what’s the fun in that?

CITYWIDE MANDATE

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell made vaccinations mandatory for many businesses, starting August 16. This includes all customers ages 12 and older to enter restaurants, bars, theatres, stadiums, casinos, racetracks, athletic clubs, play centers, and other places for social gatherings. If you can’t or don’t wish to be vaccinated, you must provide proof of a PCR test (more on that) in the last 72 hours prior to your visit.

Exempt from this list are grocery, hardware and department stores, gas stations, places of worship, public libraries, and federal offices like the Post Office.

STATEWIDE MANDATE

Governor John Bel Edwards’s announcement on September 1 extended mandatory masking in almost all public places. The exceptions are parochial schools, where it is recommended, and at outdoor events of up to 500 with less than 50 percent occupancy, like a children’s baseball game, or a sales event at a used car lot.

The bottom line is that to catch a Saints game at the new Caesar’s stadium, see the Doobie Brothers at the Smoothie King Center, or enjoy Inferno Burlesque at the House of Blues (their motto is “Mask On So We Can Rock On”) will require vaccination plus a mask.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND THE VACCIANATION?

Vaccinations are free and easy to find. You can search for a location at vaccines.gov, or find information by calling 800.232.0233. For minors ages 16 and older, only the Pfizer (recently rebranded Comirnaty) vaccine is approved; for ages 12 to 15 and the severely immunocompromised, the Pfizer shot is approved on EUA (Emergency Use Authorized) basis. For the immune compromised, this would be a booster shot.

Ready.nola.gov provides a user-friendly vaccine calendar for community vaccination sites for all three kinds of vaccinations: pick a date and the vaccine, and it will provide a location. This site can be used to organize community vaccinations as well.

Alternatively, Ochsner, Children’s Hospital, and LCMC provide vaccinations. The distribution of vaccinations at CVS and Walgreens was disrupted by Hurricane Ida, but some small independent pharmacies like the Lagniappe Pharmacy on St. Charles continue to vaccinate.

WHAT ABOUT NO VACCINATION?

Someone who does not wish to, or cannot be vaccinated, rt-PCR or PCR testing is offered by the aforementioned healthcare providers as well as In and Out Urgent Care and De Paul Community Health Centers. Many places accommodate drive through only and patients self-perform swabbing of the nostril. Testing results are compiled by independent labs and the results are sent to an email address provided by the patient. Same-day rt-PCR rapid testing is available at Fasttestnow.com.

YOUR VACCINATION CARD

After getting vaccinated, keeping track of your records is important; one way is to make a photocopy of both sides of a vaccination card and laminate it. Keep all family members’ original cards in one place.

Another solution is to download the LAWallet App onto your mobile phone. This app is only for Louisiana residents and you must have a driver’s license or state ID. Another catch: the information on your vaccination record and license or ID must match. See your healthcare provider if you need to edit your vaccination card to match.

If you have misplaced your vaccination card, you can recover the information by contacting your original place of vaccination or contacting the state health department where you received your vaccination. For Louisianans, a useful site is lalinks.org for all immunization records. 

MORE TO COME

President Biden’s press conference on September 9 suggests that vaccine protocols will become increasingly stringent. Educate and prepare your family now so you are not disappointed–or worse–moving forward in the 2021-2022 school year.


By Valerie Walker

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