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New order goes into effect, no more state mask mandate

Following months of sustained improvement in COVID-19 hospitalizations and an increase in the supply and availability of vaccines, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that some mitigation measures will be eased and, starting Wednesday, April 28, the statewide mask mandate will be lifted.

Mask policies in Louisiana will be set by local leaders and business owners. Under the governor’s new public health order, masks will still be required on public transit and in state government buildings, K-12 schools, early childhood education centers, colleges and universities, and healthcare facilities.

More than one in four Louisianans are now fully vaccinated, including two-thirds of those 65 and older. The state of Louisiana joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal and medical officials in recommending that people wear masks in public or when they are with unvaccinated people outside of their households.

All Louisianans 16 and older have been eligible for the COVID vaccine for more than a month and Louisiana was one of the first states to broaden vaccine eligibility to the full population. The three safe and effective COVID vaccines are widely available in Louisiana.

“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,” Edwards said. “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.”

The order the governor signed Tuesday also eases restrictions on live music and allows some businesses, like salons, to re-open their waiting areas. Outdoor events will no longer have crowd limitations.

Social distancing and masking are recommended by both the state of Louisiana and the CDC.

Lifting of the mask mandate does not affect the COVID liability protections that were enacted by the Louisiana Legislature which require businesses and schools to follow the recommendations of state and federal health authorities, all of which recommend continued mask wearing.

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.

State agencies may choose to opt-out of the mask mandate for state-owned buildings in writing to the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and also must inform people entering the building that masks are not mandatory. All state agencies in the governor’s cabinet and under the governor’s authority will keep their mask mandates.

The Department of Health additionally will issue a state health officer order that will mandate masks in all health care facilities.

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 Two out of Three Rule: To lower risk for COVID, 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 vaccine hotline at 1-855-453-0774 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon 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.