In New Orleans, court deputies are gearing up to evict tenants from their homes after the federal eviction moratorium expired over the weekend. Yesterday, local officials announced a new preparation requirement: All of the deputies tasked with enforcing these evictions must get vaccinated in the next two weeks.
Constable Edwin M. Shorty Jr, who oversees law enforcement for one of the city’s courts, told a local TV station that he expected the courts to be at capacity in the coming weeks. The vaccine mandate, he said, would ensure the safety of the deputies conducting evictions, while also reducing the risk of COVID transmission to members of the public.
The nationwide eviction moratorium that expired over the weekend was put in place shortly after the start of the pandemic—when unemployment began to hit historic highs during COVID lockdowns that shuttered businesses, and poverty rates started to spike. The Centers for Disease Control enacted the moratorium specifically because mass evictions pushing families into homelessness or couch-surfing would pose a grave health risk, fueling further spread of COVID infections.
Now it appears that New Orleans is trying to insulate its deputies from infection, while subjecting tenants to these exact health risks as the Delta variant is surging. And the evictions will take place as only 37 percent of Louisiana residents are fully vaccinated, and as COVID-19 cases in New Orleans are on the rise: Over the weekend, the city’s mayor restored the city’s mask mandate after emergency medical responders told her that the case numbers had gotten so high that EMS could not keep up with the volume of 911 calls.
Meanwhile, several members of Congress have been camped out on the steps of the US Capitol since this weekend, pushing to reconvene the House, which is currently on recess, to pass eviction protections. The Biden administration has also called on Congress to enact a new eviction ban, saying that the administration doesn’t have the legal authority to enact an eviction ban on its own, after the Supreme Court signaled in a June decision that further extensions by the CDC would be unlawful.
“We have to reconvene the House and vote to reinstate the eviction moratorium to put an end to the eviction emergency,” tweeted Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who is leading the action at the Capitol steps. “11 million lives and livelihoods are on the line.”