(The Center Square) – Gov. John Bel Edwards reinstated Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate Monday afternoon amid rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Edwards said the mandate is temporary and cited concerns over public safety and the state’s ability to care for infected patients as the basis for his new executive order.
“It has never been more clear that we are in an unchecked COVID surge that, in addition to threatening the health and well-being of many Louisianans, also threatens the capacity of our hospitals and medical facilities to deliver care to their patients,” Edwards said.
“This decision is not one I take lightly, but as the fourth surge of COVID-19 is upon us, we know that mask wearing when you are in public is one way to greatly lower your risk of spreading or catching COVID,” Edwards said.
All Louisiana residents and visitors to the state age 5 and older must wear masks when indoors until Sept. 1, though Edwards said the mandate may be extended beyond that date.
The mask mandate also applies to K-12 schools and universities for the upcoming school year, beginning this month. All students, including kindergarteners, faculty and visitors are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
Louisiana is experiencing the greatest increase in case rate, percent positivity and hospitalizations since the pandemic emerged as a public health crisis last year, a news release said.
According to recent data, Louisiana has the highest number of coronavirus cases per capita of any state in the country, a fact often blamed on the state’s low vaccination rate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday, however, that fully vaccinated individuals can transmit the disease.
The CDC published findings from a Massachusetts-based study showing 74% of new cases were so-called “breakthrough” cases, or those occurring in fully vaccinated people. The study was noted in the text of Edwards’ order.
“This new information and other recent data showing the Delta variant is more than twice as transmissible as the original strains of COVID-19 bolster our recommendation to the Governor to put a universal mask mandate in place immediately,” State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said.
The Louisiana Department of Health said it strongly encourages face coverings for children age 2 and older as they are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. Edwards said local leaders may implement measures that are “more comprehensive and restrictive than current state guidelines.”
The executive order said all individuals are required to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in any place outside of a private residence unless one of eight exceptions apply, which include medical conditions, communication disorders, public speaking, athletic competitions, no contact with other individuals and temporary removal for eating, drinking and identification.
Edwards’ pervious mask mandate ended April 28 and lasted nearly one year.