Here's why New Orleans' mayor was denied entry to scheduled meeting with Biden

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was scheduled to be among the invited guests to participate in a White House meeting with President Biden and Vice President Harris on Friday. The topic of discussion was the Biden administration’s push to get the American Rescue Plan pushed through Congress. Unfortunately for Mayor Cantrell, she was denied entry to the meeting after arriving at the White House.

Why was she not allowed to participate in a meeting to which she was invited? She is a victim of a false-positive test result. The White House administers a rapid test for COVID-19 to all visitors. She was a part of a small group of mayors and governors that were to meet with the president and vice president. Later she took a second test and tested negative. The rapid tests are not always reliable.

All visitors to the White House must be tested to determine if they have been infected with the coronavirus. The administration uses a rapid test to screen visitors. Some rapid tests have been known to produce unreliable results. The second test was taken at a D.C. clinic. It was fortunate for her that the first test was wrong, otherwise, she would have faced difficulty in being allowed to travel back home Friday evening. This is Mardi Gras weekend and it’s important for her to be in town.

Cantrell tested positive for COVID-19 on the White House’s rapid test, but had a negative result on a second polymerase chain reaction test that she took at a clinic in the D.C. area, City Hall spokesperson LaTonya Norton said.

The mayor has not displayed any symptoms, and will return to New Orleans Friday evening as scheduled. A second positive test could have made getting back to the city for the last weekend of Carnival more difficult.

“The Mayor was disappointed to be unable to meet with President Biden this morning, but she remains confident that the new administration will be a strong partner for New Orleans,” Norton said.

As it happens, the mayor took her first COVID-19 vaccination just two days before traveling to Washington. She and other public officials in New Orleans took the vaccinations together to encourage New Orleanians to get vaccinated when they are eligible to do so.

The next day she did a quick update to let everyone know she had no bad reaction to the vaccine and that it is safe to take. She is set to take a second dose in a few weeks. Vaccinated people are only considered fully immunized after two weeks after the second dose. Then they are considered to be 95% protected.

The meeting she was to attend was a chance for President Biden to prove he is listening to all opinions on the $1.9T COVID-19 relief package. He failed to take that opportunity. The list of those invited were the mayors of Atlanta, Detroit, Miami, and Arlington, Texas, along with governors from New York, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Maryland. All are Biden-friendly elected officials. The Republicans that were present were Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Hogan is a liberal Republican who voted for Joe Biden. Hutchinson is a more moderate Republican who sometimes goes against Biden in interviews and says that it would set a bad precedent to ram through the American Rescue Act on a purely partisan vote. He also speaks up that the states should be in the lead in the COVID-19 vaccination efforts, though Biden wants to federalize the effort. Mayor Williams is usually a solid Republican but in this case, is willing to speak favorably of Biden’s efforts to work with both sides of the aisle in order to get federal help with the vaccine distribution and delivery. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez must have sufficiently kissed the ring of Biden during the meeting because White House Press Secretary Psaki brought him and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to speak to the press corps after the meeting Friday. Both gushed over Biden.

Hogan spread Biden’s talking points and said he is encouraging Republicans to go along to get along, as is to be expected from him. He also is pleased to have been one of the first governors invited to the White House to meet with Biden and Harris. As we know, Hogan did not meet with President Trump at the White House.

Hogan urged the GOP afterward to work with the Democratic Biden administration, which has proposed a $1.9 trillion aid package being considered by Congress.

“As I told President Biden, there is no reason why he and Republicans in Congress cannot forge a compromise that addresses the nation’s top priorities in this crisis,” Hogan said in a prepared statement. “I will continue urging Republicans in Congress to be willing to compromise, and I urge the president to lead by finding the common ground where we can all stand together.”

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be one of the first governors to meet with President Biden and Vice President Harris as we work together to end this horrific pandemic,” Hogan’s statement said.

Biden’s outreach to mayors and governors, as limited as it was, would have been more impressive if he had invited someone not already inclined to agree with what he is trying to do. For example, there are plenty of Republicans who agree with most of the American Rescue Act but have problems with bail-outs for cities and states that are poorly managed (mostly blue states and cities) or have problems with the total amount of people eligible for COVID-19 relief checks. If he had done that and convinced a doubter that his plan is best, that would have been more persuasive than just listening to the choir sing Biden’s praises.