Gov. Edwards amends statewide mask mandate

Gov. Edwards amends statewide mask mandate
(Source: Pixabay)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced on Tuesday, April 27, that he is amending the statewide mask mandate.

“Instead of a blanket mask mandate, we will be allowing local leaders and business owners to set their own policies regarding masks,” said Edwards.

Local governments and businesses can set their own mandates. Masks will still be required in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, public transit, state buildings, and healthcare facilities.

“I just thought it was time to do it. And you see the number of deaths decreasing, you see the number of hospitalizations very low and stable,” Edwards added.

Gov. Edwards issues updated masking guidelines in Louisiana on April 27, 2021.
Gov. Edwards issues updated masking guidelines in Louisiana on April 27, 2021. (Source: WAFB)
Gov. Edwards issues new mask guidance

“Many Louisianans have been wearing masks for more than a year now and the statewide mask mandate has been in place for nearly 10 months. We know masks work - the science is clear and we’ve seen the positive impact in our own state. It’s intuitive for people to protect themselves with masks in higher-risk situations, and this important mitigation measure should continue. But we have many more tools for slowing the spread of COVID than we did even a few months ago, including better treatments and, most importantly, several highly effective and safe vaccines. I want to be clear: this is not the end of wearing masks in public, as COVID-19 and the spread of variants are still a real threat in our communities. Louisianans should respect each other and businesses and places where masks will be required as we move into a new phase of slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. I will continue to wear a mask in government buildings and in public, especially when I do not know if someone around me has been vaccinated, and I encourage everyone to do this as well,” Edwards explained.

Restrictions are also eased for concert venues and facilities where sporting events are held.

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For theaters, event spaces, festivals and fairs, and other outdoor events, there will be no limitations on outdoor capacity. Indoors, a facility may choose to operate at 75 percent capacity while enforcing six feet of social distancing or at 100 percent capacity with masking required and enforced.

For indoor sporting events, capacity is limited to 75 percent of capacity with social distancing or 100 percent capacity if a mask mandate is enforced at the venue. Capacity will not be limited outdoors.

For live music, new regulations will require 10 feet of space between the stage and the audience and crowds must be seated. Bars will still only be open to those 21 and older.

Gov. Edwards said the revision of the mandate is not an end to the recommendation of wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“And I understand that that sounds contradictory, that we are going to continue to urge people to wear a mask, even though I’m lifting the mandate, in most respects. But, it’s really no different than what it was when I put the mandate in, where we were strongly urging people to wear a mask,” Edwards noted.

RELATED: CDC says many Americans can now go outside without a mask

The new proclamation will be in effect from April 28 through May 25. The governor said Louisiana is now No. 30 in the US for confirmed cases per capita. The state was No. 1 in that category for some time.

Dr. Joseph Kanter said health officials continue to track “breakthrough cases,” which are people who have been fully vaccinated and then test positive for COVID-19. He noted there have been 7,157 such cases in the US and 367 cases in Louisiana, which is only 0.03%.

The governor reminded everyone that the pandemic is not over and the state does not want to go backward.

“We’re in a better place but not in the best place,” he stated.

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Local economists believe the lifting of the mask mandate will help reopen the economy in the Red Stick even more.

“For large employers and for small businesses, this is going to add additional flexibility,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC). “Safety is still paramount for everyone and that still remains the message is that we can do so. And now have the mask mandate lifted, to be able to do safety policies in the next way, is the next most important step of this recovery.”

“I’m hopeful and optimistic that the people of Louisiana are going to respond and do what’s necessary. They’ve done that thus far,” said Edwards.

MASKING RECOMMENDATIONS

The Louisiana Department of Health recommends that the public follow the “Two out of Three” rule to keep themselves safe during COVID.

When in doubt about whether to wear a mask at a certain activity where people outside of a person’s everyday household will be present, they can stay safe by:

  • Making sure everyone around them is vaccinated, or
  • Maintaining the 2 out of 3 Rule: To lower risk for COVID-19, make sure the activity meets two out of the following three conditions: Outdoors, Distanced and Masked.
  • Outdoors + Distanced = No Mask Recommended
  • Outdoors + Not Distanced = Mask Recommended
  • Indoor + Distanced = Mask Recommended

Residents can call the Bring Back Louisiana COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 1-855-453-0774 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. The hotline can help residents schedule vaccine appointments, find vaccine providers in their area and connect people with medical professionals who can answer vaccine-related questions.

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