On Friday, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) announced a mandatory vaccination requirement for the agency’s over 800 employees. All employees, including those currently fully vaccinated are required to provide valid proof of vaccination. Effective Monday July 26, the agency will require that unvaccinated employees receive their first vaccination shot no later than July 29 and must complete their second dose instructed by the vaccination administrator. The RTA has also re-instated mask requirements in all RTA offices regardless of individual vaccination status. Mask mandates in RTA vehicles have been in place since May 2020.
“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.”
“Out an abundance of caution the RTA is requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees,” said Alex Wiggins, RTA CEO. “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.”
“We are seeing a pandemic among the unvaccinated,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “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.”
“Vaccination is an important piece in maintaining and protecting the culture and spirit of New Orleans,” said Dr. Corey Hebert, M.D. “The RTA’s decision to require vaccination for all employees exhibits their commitment to their employees and the thousands of lives they encounter on a daily basis.”
This action builds on the existing COVID-19 safety protocols instituted at the onset of the COVD-19 pandemic. The RTA is also reinstating mandatory daily temperature checks and requiring regular onsite COVID-19 testing for all employees. The decision comes as the city is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases of the deadly and highly transmissible Delta variant. Vaccination exceptions will be made in the rare circumstances for RTA employees with documented medical or religious reasons. The RTA continues to provide all staff with PPE of masks, gloves, and sanitizer.
At the onset of the pandemic, RTA implemented safety protocols that included enhanced daily cleanings of the vehicle fleet, mask mandates, and the installation of safety barriers in all buses and streetcars to protect riders and frontline staff. The agency has also held several employee town hall style meetings to educate employees on the importance of vaccinations, COVID-19’s impact on mental health, and the Delta variant.