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Cantrell, Avegno, city health dept. sued over New Orleans’ vaccination, mask mandates

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, left, and Health Department director Jennifer Avegno, right,...
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, left, and Health Department director Jennifer Avegno, right, are being sued over the city's mandates for COVID-19 vaccinations and mask-wearing for indoor businesses
Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 8:47 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2022 at 9:20 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans’ mandates requiring COVID-19 vaccinations and mask-wearing to enter bars, restaurants and indoor facilities are being challenged in a new lawsuit brought against Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Dr. Jennifer Avegno and the Health Department that Avegno heads.

The suit, filed late Monday (Jan. 31) in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, was brought on behalf of more than 100 plaintiffs, about half of whom live in Orleans Parish, and half of whom reside in Jefferson Parish or other parts of Louisiana, attorneys said. They contend the Cantrell administration’s vaccine and mask mandates are unlawfully excluding them from enjoying activities in New Orleans such as dining in the city’s restaurants, visiting its museums or taking advantage of paid gym memberships, among other complaints.

The suit, which has been allotted to the docket of Judge Robin Giarrusso, says the plaintiffs have “endured nearly two years of unprecedented executive control during the COVID-19 pandemic. What started as a temporary means to protect the community from unknown risks has turned into perpetual, unlawful overreach.”

City officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the court petition.

The plaintiffs challenging the public health directives are represented by Alexandria-based attorney Jimmy Faircloth and the local law group Rodrigue & Arcuri. Faircloth recently represented Ochsner Health workers in Shreveport and Lafayette in an unsuccessful attempt to thwart the vaccine mandate imposed upon employees of Louisiana’s largest health care system.

That case was lost Jan. 7, when the Louisiana Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling said Ochsner Health had the right to fire employees who refused to comply with its vaccination requirement, because such a decision did not violate existing law or the state or federal constitutions.

Related coverage: La. Supreme Court rules Ochsner has right to fire its employees for failure to comply with vaccine mandate

The Rodrigue & Arcuri Law Group issued a statement regarding the 24-page New Orleans lawsuit that said, “The people of New Orleans and our children have endured nearly two years of unprecedented control from our so-called city leaders. What started as a temporary means to protect the community from unknown risks of a virus has turned into a circus of mandates that no longer make sense to any rational person.

“Enough is enough. People all over our great state who live, work and worship in New Orleans are united in this effort to take back control of their lives and families.”

The challenge to the city’s vaccination and indoor masking requirements comes just weeks before the Carnival tourism season hits full stride, culminating with Mardi Gras on March 1. The petition asks for a judgment that the mandates are unlawful, or for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the regulations until arguments for a permanent injunction can be heard.

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