By Message Staff
BATON ROUGE, La. (LBM) – Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a statewide mask mandate during a Saturday afternoon news conference.
Citing a record high number of novel coronavirus related cases Friday and an increase in hospitalizations statewide, Edwards said the decision was necessary so Louisiana does not have to revert back to Phase One or Phase Zero of reopening the state’s economy. Anyone eight years or older must wear a mask when the mandate goes into effect 12:01 a.m. Monday, unless individuals have a major health condition. Face coverings should be worn in outdoor settings when social distancing is not possible, Edwards said.
The new mandate also limits bars to curbside food service only and reduces indoor social gatherings to 50 people. Edwards said bars especially have posed a higher public health risk than other types of restaurants because customers are socializing and do not wear masks while consuming alcohol.
Under the order, the state will remain in Phase Two until at least July 24. Businesses and churches will continue to be restricted to 50 percent capacity.
While the mask mandate applies to all 64 parishes, those with a COVID-19 incidence of less than 100 cases per 100,000 people for the last two weeks could choose to opt out of the mandate. Grant, Red River and West Feliciana parishes quality and are exempt from the order.
“Let’s be good neighbors to one another,” Edwards said. “Realize we all have a role to play.
“And I have confidence in Louisiana,” he continued. “Just like we did before, we will do it again. And we should take advantage of this opportunity we have. By the way, this opportunity isn’t going to last forever. If we want to bend the curve and get this back under control without having to go back to phase one or to phase zero, now is our time. Don’t wait til tomorrow. Don’t wait til next week or next month because we won’t have any time left at that point.
“I would encourage people to continue to pray for all of us and for our medical professionals especially,” he said. “We will get through this as best possibly we can and as soon as we possibly can.”
Edwards said while mask restrictions apply to houses of worship, the state will not be enforcing the mandate.
“We are not going to be citing pastors,” he said. “We are not going to be doing those things. But I am encouraging them to understand that that particular setting because you have people there often for an hour or longer, it really is important that they wear a mask.”