It’s no myth: Mask mandate extended until Aug. 7

Published 2:35 pm Friday, July 24, 2020

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On Thursday, Gov. John Bel Edwards noted that the state of Louisiana is still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and officially signed a renewal of the current proclamation extending “Phase Two” of re-opening — which includes the statewide mask mandate and additional restrictions — until at least Friday, Aug. 7.

Edwards noted that the state had just passed a milestone of more than 100,000 reported cases of COVID-19, earlier that day.

“Today, we are reporting 2,408 new cases, which means that the state has now surpassed 100,000 total cases,” Edwards said Thursday. “And of course, these are only the cases we know about. There are undoubtedly more. When you hit a milestone like this one and when you see death totals that are higher than they’ve been in months, as we did (Wednesday), it’s a reality check.

“For anyone out there minimizing the seriousness of this situation, you are doing yourself and this state a terrible disservice. The same is true for anyone questioning the validity of the data that we’re using and releasing every day,” Edwards said. “COVID-19 is very prevalent throughout our state, and it is more widespread than ever before. We are certainly not where we want to be in Louisiana. I’ve extended Phase Two with the mask mandate and other restrictions, but we are perilously close to having to make tough decisions that no one wants.

“This is why we have to follow the mitigation measures that are in place. We have to wear our masks, keep social distance, wash our hands frequently and stay home when we are feeling sick.”

The statewide mask mandate applies to all 64 parishes in Louisiana. However, parishes with a COVID-19 incidence of fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 people for the most recent two-week period for which data is available can choose to opt out of the mandate. Under the state’s policy, parish presidents in parishes with lower incidence rates do not have to opt out and may choose to keep a mask mandate in place.

The Louisiana Department of Health updates its incidence data every other week and at press time, no Louisiana parish met the standard to opt out of the current mask mandate.

The order requires face coverings for everyone ages 8 and older except for the following:

  • Anyone who has a medical condition that prevents the wearing of a face covering.
  • Anyone who is consuming a drink or food.
  • Anyone who is trying to communicate with a person who is hearing impaired.
  • Anyone who is giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience.
  • Anyone temporarily removing his or her face covering for identification purposes.
  • Anyone who is a resident of a parish without a high COVID incidence that has opted out of the masking mandate.

Masks are strongly recommended for children ages 2 to 7.

The mask mandate, which was originally announced on July 11, also includes changes to the previous rules concerning bars and large gatherings. These rules went into effect July 11 and remain in effect until at least Aug. 7.


Closure of bars to all on-premises consumption

All bars, including those with food permits from the Louisiana Department of Health, will be closed to on-premises consumption. They can operate for curbside takeout or delivery service only.

Public health officials believe going to bars is a higher public health risk than visiting other types of businesses because people are socializing and cannot wear masks when they drink. In addition, young people under the age of 30 make up the largest percentage of new COVID cases in Louisiana.


Gathering size regulations

The order also limits the size of social gatherings to 50 people indoors. Outdoor social gatherings are also limited to 50 people, if individuals cannot avoid being within six feet of one another.

This crowd-size limitation shall not apply to those businesses deemed essential as defined by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency or any businesses and organizations operating at 50-percent capacity pursuant to Paragraphs (1) through (6) of Subsection (G) of Section 2 of 83 JBE 2020, including churches and other faith-based organizations.

The 50-person limit will apply to indoor gatherings, like receptions, weddings and others. The changes are based on the advice of public health officials.