UNMASKING A SPLIT: Gov. Edwards, AG Landry spar over Louisiana mask mandate

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — While Louisiana’s chief legal officer remains quarantined with the coronavirus, he’s eschewing downtime — instead doubling down against a statewide mask mandate.

In a letter Monday, Attorney General Jeff Landry claimed the emergency proclamation Gov. John Bel Edwards issued on July 11 has hurt businesses’ abilities to operate and undermined the public’s freewill.

“You have placed our job creators in the crosshairs,” the Republican attorney general wrote to the Democratic governor. “State immunity does not protect our job creators from federal civil rights claims or the myriad of other federal liabilities they may face in executing your edicts. It is simply wrong and beyond your authority.”

“Unlike you, I have faith in the people of Louisiana,” he added.

Landry’s letter comes days after Edwards wrote to him, itself a response to the attorney general’s opinion that the governor’s mandate defies the state’s constitution.

“You seem mystified by what a face covering is,” the governor wrote last Wednesday. “I will continue to do the best I can to use data and expert guidance to lead our efforts to confront this historic crisis.”

Edwards’ communications director, Shauna Sanford, dismissed Landry’s latest correspondence Monday. “The governor said last week that the [attorney general] was completely wrong in his opinion, and neither one of his letters have changed anyone’s mind,” she wrote in an email.

The governor has cited support from the Trump administration and its allies, who held a roundtable discussion last Tuesday at LSU’s Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

“The governor is correct,” said White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx. “It will take everyone in Louisiana, every single person in Louisiana, to wear a mask.”

“Wear a mask whenever state and local authorities say it’s indicated or whenever social distancing is not possible,” Vice President Mike Pence said.

As of Monday, July 20, Louisiana has confirmed 94,892 COVID-19 cases, including 3,462 who have died of complications.

The statewide mask mandate marks only the latest point of discord between Landry and Edwards. Since taking their respective posts in 2016, they’ve sparred over escrow accounts, lethal injection practices and workplace protections for LGBTQ state employees.

Landry, who announced he tested positive for COVID-19 last week, will likely stay under quarantine for another week.


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