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Morning Call struggles with vaccine mandate on first day

Irate customer, staff having trouble getting tests back in a timely manner cause problems for popular beignet spot.

Morning Call typically teems with customers early in the day, but the coffee and beignet stand was eerily quiet Monday.

A sign taped to the door said to come back at 6 p.m. That's when a fully-vaccinated staff could be on the clock.

In New Orleans, Monday was the first day the city would ramp up enforcement of new requirements for several businesses, including restaurants, to ask for proof of at least once COVID shot or a negative test no older than 72 hours.

Morning Call co-owner Bob Hennessey said the city's rules left a few serious questions: Do the rules apply to customers and employees? And what happens if COVID test results for employees don't get back fast enough?

“Every facility that was doing testing said it would take three to four days to get your results back,” Hennessey said. “Therefore, if they get the test on Sunday, they would not get the results until Wednesday or Thursday. By that time, the 72-hour timeframe has elapsed."

Mayor LaToya Cantrell's decision to mandate a proof of vaccination or negative test was met with mixed results.

Some business owners said it would help them feel more comfortable asking for that information. Others said it could be too cumbersome -- or even unsafe.

“The very first customer came in. My waiter said, 'Excuse me, sir. Do you have your vaccination card?' And he got very, very angry. (He) started a big commotion in my restaurant. Almost had to call the police,” Hennessey said.

City Hall spokesman Beau Tidwell on Monday said the rules apply to customers and employees, adding that "The goal of all of this is to save lives and get vaccinated."

The rules will be in place until COVID-19 numbers fall to safe levels, Tidwell said.

Hennessey says he'll follow the rules, even if he doesn't agree with them.

“I think they have the right and I think every United States citizen has the right to choose,” he said. “And that's the great thing about our country, I think.”

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