(The Center Square) – New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Orleans Parish School Board President Olin Parker have been subpoenaed to testify this week in a lawsuit over the city’s COVID-19 vaccination and mask mandates.
Cantrell and Parker were subpoenaed to testify Thursday in the case Andrews v. Cantrell, which involves more than 100 residents of New Orleans and surrounding communities who sued over the “social, economic and cultural harm” of the city’s mask and vaccination mandates.
Cantrell imposed a mask mandate for indoor spaces effective Feb. 1 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the city. The only exception to the mandate is for those who are “actively eating or drinking.” The “modified phase three” dictate also stipulates all individuals over age 5 must show proof of full vaccination or negative test to access specific businesses like restaurants, bars, gyms, indoor entertainment venues, and large outdoor events.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue “what started as a temporary means to protect the community from unknown risks has turned into perpetual, unlawful overreach.”
“Plaintiffs stand on behalf of all persons who demand respect for the rule of law, individual autonomy, parental authority, and those who cherish the City of New Orleans and are saddened by the social, economic and cultural harm caused by the defendants’ authoritarian actions under the pretext of an emergency without end,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit seeks a restraining order and injunction to “prohibit enforcement of the unlawful requirements” and “that defendants be cited to appear, answer and respond.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who successfully argued against the federal government private employer vaccinate-or-test mandate, joined the lawsuit shortly after it was filed.
“I am hopeful this suit will finally bring an end to the city’s unlawful and draconian dictates upon all who rely upon services in New Orleans,” Landry said Wednesday. “I am proud to stand with the parents and guardians fighting to ensure the government does not interfere with their families’ healthcare decisions.”
Cantrell and Parker undoubtedly will face questions Thursday about images that circulated online last week showing the two and others flaunting the mask mandate during the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball at Gallier Hall on Feb. 18.
“We are happy to see the people of New Orleans finally able to return to normal and enjoy the Mardi Gras season,” Laura Cannizzaro Rodrigue, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city, said in a statement.
“That is exactly what we have been advocating for. We are furious to see our so-called city leaders violating their own mask mandate all through the carnival season while demanding that ordinary citizens and children remain masked,” she said. “The hypocrisy and privilege will no longer be tolerated. The silence from our state legislature is deafening. We see you, and we are coming for you.”
Videos posted online appear to show a maskless Cantrell standing on a rotating photo booth with a microphone in hand alongside two other people, NOLA.com reported.
City officials did not dispute the mayor’s apparent failure to mask up indoors or the authenticity of the video. Several other city and parish officials, including Parker, also were photographed maskless at the event, according to the news site.
“While we did not see perfect adoption of the guidelines in every instance over the weekend, we were encouraged overall by the level of masking and vigilance we saw on the parade route and at ball events,” city spokesperson Beau Tidwell said in a prepared statement.
City officials will continue the mask mandate at least through Mardi Gras, but have not revealed what happens beyond that.
“The mask guidelines and the vaccination requirement will remain in effect through Mardi Gras. That has not changed and it will not change,” Tidwell said.