UPDATE, 2:49 p.m.: Gov. John Bel Edwards has reinstated a statewide COVID-19 mask mandate effective Wednesday, Aug. 4 for all individuals, vaccinated and unvaccinated, both indoors and outdoors, ages 5 and up. The mandate will be in place through Sept. 1 and may be extended, if necessary.
- Click here to view the Governor’s Updated Public Health Emergency Order and Indoor Statewide Mask Mandate.
- Click here to review data and slides presented at today’s media briefing.
The announcement comes as Louisiana expects Tuesday to report the most hospitalizations for COVID since the pandemic began. The mask mandate also extends to all school campuses, said Edwards, as persons age 29 and under are primarily driving the current surge in COVID-19 cases.
Students start returning to some K-12 schools this week. Louisiana’s education leaders had declined to enact any masking orders across all districts, leaving it to individual school systems to determine their plans. The governor’s executive order will end the district-by-district negotiations.
Edwards said statewide positivity of COVID cases has reached 13%, and it is only expected to rise.
“Looking ahead to tomorrow, we will report more hospitalizations than at any other point in the pandemic,” Edwards said. “Case growth per capita is the highest in the country, and the second-place state is not even close. … There are no signs on the horizon that things are about to flatten.”
Currently, 43% of Louisiana residents have received at least one dose of vaccine. Only 37% of Louisiana residents are fully vaccinated, said the governor.
Lady of the Lake hospital officials said they are currently caring for 155 COVID-19 patients, one-third of them in intensive care. Our Lady of the Lake and several other medical facilities around Louisiana have delayed elective surgeries that require inpatient beds, and procedures such as cancer treatments, because of the coronavirus spike.
Stephanie Flood Thomas, a resident of Mississippi and spokesperson for the disaster medical assistance team, said she recently returned from working at a hospital in Texas, where there was a need for lab techs, nurses, respiratory therapists and a host of other areas of care.
“It’s the entire hospital,” she said. “It’s not just one group of people that are getting sick. It’s the front desk who are getting sick. There are some people who are scared to come to work. Some of the hospitals that we backfilled, they were scared that they were going to get it.”
STATEWIDE MASK MANDATE
Face masks that properly cover the wearer’s mouth and nose should be worn indoors at all times, unless a person is in a home, under the governor’s statewide mask mandate, which will be in place until at least September 1.
The order requires face coverings for everyone age 5 or older or enrolled in kindergarten, 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
Face coverings are highly encouraged for those ages 2 to 4 as tolerated.
As with the governor’s previous mandate, children younger than kindergarten age are exempted if they cannot wear a mask. However, the CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health strongly encourage indoor mask-wearing in public for all children aged two and older, especially as they are not yet eligible for the COVID vaccine. Generally, LDH shares these reminders for individuals and families who are trying to stay as safe as possible during the COVID-10 pandemic:
- If you can do an activity outdoors instead of indoors, do it outdoors
- Follow good hygiene practices (wash your hands vigorously and frequently, and don’t touch your face)
- Stay away from crowded settings
- Work virtually if possible
- If you suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19, get tested immediately
- If you’re in an at-risk group, be extra careful
- Everyone who is sick or who has COVID symptoms should stay home
LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack released the following statement regarding the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases and the impact it has on Louisiana’s health and economy.
“Our healthcare members have reported this week that COVID-19 cases are rapidly increasing due to the Delta variant, especially in younger and unvaccinated populations. This troubling trend must be addressed, especially as our students head back to school, businesses get back on their feet, and Louisiana families return to normal after the pandemic shutdown. For these reasons, we recommend compliance with the executive order and urge anyone not yet vaccinated to consult with their doctor about doing so. Getting your vaccine could not only protect yourself and the ones you love, but could also stave off any new economic restrictions by government.
To reinforce this position, we must reiterate how devastating any version of a second pandemic shutdown would be to Louisiana. Our economy is simply too fragile. We’re roughly 160,000 jobs down from before the pandemic and our unemployment rate sits 2.5% higher than before this all started. Businesses are having tremendous difficulties with workforce shortages, including front-line health care positions, and supply chains are severely disrupted. Small businesses, especially those in hospitality and retail, make up the backbone of our economy and can’t afford to close their doors again. The shutdown-style approach tried across the country last year should not be repeated. We stand ready to work with our elected leaders to prioritize creative and effective efforts that address the shared goals of protecting public health and saving our battered economy, rather than pitting them against each other.”
ORIGINAL POST: BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — Gov. John Bel Edwards is holding a press conference at 2:30 p.m. today and is expected to announce his decision on whether or not to reinstate a COVID-19 mask mandate.
In a press conference on Friday, July 30, the governor stopped short of reinstating the mandate, but said he was “seriously considering” the matter. At the time of the press conference, new information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had just come out, and Edwards and State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter both said they wanted to dive deeper into the information over the weekend before announcing a decision.
“I have received, over the last 24 hours or so, numerous requests from hospitals and healthcare organizations and other entities to reinstate a statewide mask mandate. This is something that I am seriously considering,” Edwards said on Friday.
The decision is expected after the state matched or broke records last week for one-day increases in infections and/or hospitalizations from COVID-19. New cases spiked by 76% over the previous week, according to Louisiana Department of Health data. Meanwhile, local hospitals are starting to report hospital bed shortages and are halting non-essential surgeries.
The original mask mandate was instated on July 13, 2020, and lifted on April 28, 2021.