New statewide mandate for masks, other restrictions: Everything you need to know

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Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a mandatory mask requirement for Louisiana and ordered bars in the state closed to on-premises consumption, as the state experiences increasing spread of COVID-19. The Governor also limited indoor social gatherings like wedding receptions, class reunions and parties to 50 total people. With these additional restrictions, Louisiana remains in Phase Two of the Roadmap for a Resilient Louisiana.

The new order is set to expire July 24, 2020, but could be extended.

“Cases in Louisiana continue to increase, including setting a record-high number of new cases reported in one day, today and yesterday. More than two thousand new COVID infections reported each of these days and increased hospitalizations are signs that we continue to go in the wrong direction in our work to control COVID-19 in our state. While I had hoped to avoid going backwards on restrictions, it is obvious that it is necessary to slow the spread of infection in our state, as COVID-19 has spread to every corner, at a level higher than we have previously seen. This is why I am now mandating face coverings statewide and also closing all bars in Louisiana to on-premises consumption, in addition to putting in limits on the size of indoor gatherings,” Gov. Edwards said. 

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 could choose to opt out of the mandate. Parish presidents do not have to opt out and may choose to keep a mask mandate in place. Currently, only three parishes in Louisiana do not exceed this standard, which will be updated every other week by the Louisiana Department of Health: Grant, Red River and West Feliciana.

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.

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.

Since the start of the crisis, Louisiana has identified at least 36 outbreaks, impacting at least 405 people, involving bars, which were actually closed under the Governor’s original Stay at Home order. 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.

The new 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% 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.

While the statewide mandate is now in place, Gov. Edwards made it clear that it would not be enforced by law enforcement agencies. Further clarifying, the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office made a statement reading, “Sheriff Parker wants you to know that this is a State Mandate, not a law. During the announcement, Governor Edwards stated clearly that this mandate will not be enforceable by law enforcement agencies. Therefore, the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing this mandate.”

While each individual may not be forced to wear a mask when they go out, businesses are now required by the state to insist that customers wear masks unless they have one of the aforementioned excuses. 

“Business owners have been required by the state to insist that it’s customers wear a mask upon entry. If you should have a medical condition that exempts the wearing of a mask we ask that you discuss this politely with the business when or if you are approached. If you are asked by a business in Webster Parish to wear a mask upon entry, your compliance is expected as it is their business and they have a right to refuse service if they should so choose. This is common practice in many businesses’ decisions that require shirts, shoes, and/or other requirements in order to patron their establishment. If a customer is asked to leave by the business due to non-compliance, and refuses to do so, the customer could face charges of trespassing. It is at this time only, that the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office will step to uphold the law on trespassing after being asked to leave,” the WPSO statement reads.

They also clarified that this mandate is also not enforceable at religious institutions.

In a message with the goal of conveying to Louisiana residents to do their part in preventing the spread of the virus, Gov. Edwards said, “Right now, all Louisianans need to work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by wearing their face masks, keeping social distance, washing their hands frequently and staying at home when they are feeling sick. These are reasonable expectations while we fight to reduce the spread of the illness in our state. This approach also gives us the best possible chance to again flatten the curve without moving back to Phase One.”

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