Baton Rouge --- As hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses proceed with plans to reopen in the New Orleans area, state health officials advise citizens intending to return to their homes and/or visit these establishments as well as business owners that they should do so with attention to public health.

 “The two things that are necessary to ensure public health – clean drinking water and proper sewage systems – are not available in the east bank area of New Orleans at this time,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “People who re-enter the city may be exposed to diseases such as e. Coli, salmonella or diarrhea illness if they do not allow time for the necessary inspections to ensure public health and safety.”

 The parts of the Greater New Orleans area previously cleared by health officials as meeting the public health standards for reopening are Algiers and the West and East Bank areas of Jefferson Parish and the Belle Chasse area of Plaquemines Parish.

Orleans Parish’s east bank water system remains under a boil advisory, meaning that potentially-harmful bacteria is still in the water supply and could be ingested if people use the water for drinking, cooking or for any other activities such as bathing, brushing their teeth or washing their hands.  “We know that many people are returning to their residences to survey damages and collect their important items and we ask that while doing so, they adhere to these health precautions,” Dr. Cerise said.

In order for a food establishment to reopen, the facility must undergo an inspection to ensure the conditions for safe food preparation and storage are in place. Once the restaurant is inspected and approved by health officials, an official placard will be conspicuously displayed at that establishment, indicating the restaurant has been inspected and is approved for reopening.  Food establishments that do not have a placard from the health department may not meet the state sanitary code and have not yet been cleared to reopen. 

“We are committed to doing our part to help establishments on the east bank of New Orleans reopen as they are able and have assigned additional workers with inspecting public water systems, restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses,” Dr. Cerise said. “However, at this time, I advise the general public against repopulating this part of the city until health officials lift the boil advisory on the water system, meaning it has been tested by public health engineers and sanitarians and cleared for use in their homes, businesses and other establishments. It is also necessary for relief workers to adhere to these health precautions while entering the area to perform essential services.”