New Orleans RTA to mandate vaccines for all employees

July 26, 2021
New Orleans RTA CEO says the decision was made to protect the health and safety of operators, administrative employees and riders.

New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) will require its more than 800 employees to be vaccinated by providing valid proof of vaccination. The mandate goes into effect July 26 with unvaccinated employees required to receive their first shot no later than July 29 and a second dose as instructed by the vaccination administrator.

“Providing a safe environment for our RTA employees and transit riders is the board’s top concern,” said Flozell Daniels, Jr., chair, RTA Board of Commissioners. “Since March 2020, we’ve implemented data-informed and community responsive policies to mitigate disparate impacts and best protect all members of our team and the riding public from exposure to COVID-19 and its variants - known and unknown.”

CEO Alex Wiggins says the vaccine mandate is being implemented “out of an abundance of caution.”

“This decision was made to protect the health and safety of our transit operators, administrative employees and our ridership as the region sees increased COVID-19 transmission rates among the unvaccinated individuals,” said Wiggins.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, for the time period July 17 to July 23, Orleans Parish had a high level of community transmission, the percent change of cases from the previous seven days was more than 25 percent and the percent of new hospital admissions for COVID-19 has increased more than 25 percent compared to the previous seven days. CDC reports 51.2 percent of Orleans Parish residents are fully vaccinated and 56.5 percent have received at least one dose.

In addition to the vaccination mandate, New Orleans RTA re-instated mask requirements in all of its offices regardless of vaccination status – a move in accordance with the city of New Orleans’ indoor mask advisory issued on July 21. Transit riders and employees are mandated to properly use face masks while in transit facilities and on public conveyances through Sept. 13, per CDC order supported by the Transportation Security Administration. New Orleans RTA is also reinstating mandatory daily temperature checks and requiring regular onsite COVID-19 testing for all employees.

The city issued its indoor mask advisory due to significant increases of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. At the time the advisory was issued, New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno called the transmission data of the past few weeks alarming and when coupled with “an inadequate vaccination rate” left the city little choice.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell supports the vaccine mandate from New Orleans RTA and says the city is seeing “a pandemic among the unvaccinated.”

“RTA has been diligent in serving our residents throughout this pandemic, and they are critical to our operations as we are actively in hurricane season. By requiring vaccinations, it is a reminder to all agency employees and all residents that we have a responsibility to not only protect ourselves, but to protect the communities around us as well. This is a step in the right direction to prevent the rapid rate of the spread of COVID-19," said Mayor Cantrell.

New Orleans RTA says it has held several town hall style meetings to educate employees on the importance of vaccinations, COVID-19’s impact on mental health and the Delta variant. The authority says vaccination exceptions will be made for employees with documented medical or religious reasons and it will continue to provide all staff with PPE including masks, gloves and sanitizer.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.