by staff reporter Nora Drenner
Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday, July 21, announced he is extending Louisiana’s current Phase Two order, which also includes a statewide mask mandate, limits indoor social gatherings to 50 people, and prohibits on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars.
He cited COVID-19 cases remain high across the state and hospitalizations continue to rise as the rationale. Gov. Edwards also commented the goal was to get children back to school safely. He also said Louisiana was number two in the nation in cases per capita which at that time equated to 2.0776 percent of the state’s population had tested positive since March 9 when the first confirmed case was announced. New York was number one noted Gov. Edwards. The new order is in effect through August 7.
Additionally, according to the data Gov. Edwards and his team of public health officials used during the news conference, 76,170 of the positive cases which equates to 78.86 percent are in the southern region of the state and the remaining 20,413 or 21.14 percent are in the central and northern region of the state. The data was dated as of July 21 at 11: 48 a.m.
“We are seeing a high percent of new tests coming back as positive, increased hospitalizations over the past 14 days and a high incidence rate across the state, which means Louisiana is not ready to move to Phase Three,” Gov. Edwards said in the news conference.
He continued, “We will continue with our current restrictions to see if we can slow the spread in Louisiana over the next two weeks. I believe in the people of Louisiana, who have already been able to flatten the curve once, and who I know can do it again.”
He encouraged all to wear a face mask in public, wash their hands frequently, stay at least six feet away from others, and to stay home when sick.
Edwards initially mandated the mask requirement on July 11, and ordered bars closed to on-premises consumption, however, curbside delivery remains available. He commented state public health officials believe going to bars is a higher public health risk than visiting other types of businesses because folks are socializing and cannot wear masks when they drink. In addition, said health officials, those under the age of 30 make up the largest percentage of new COVID cases in Louisiana.
Gov. Edwards also limited indoor social gatherings such as wedding receptions, class reunions and parties to 50 total people. Outdoor social gatherings are also limited to 50 people if individuals cannot remain within 6 feet of one another.
This crowd size limitation does 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 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: those with a medical condition that prevents the wearing of a face covering; those consuming drink and/or food; those communicating with a hearing impaired person; those giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience; those temporarily removing a mask for identification purposes; and those residing in 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.
The state initially went into lockdown mode due to COVID-19 on March 23 with only businesses deemed essential open. Prior to that all schools in the state were closed on March 13. Phase one reopening of the state got underway May 1 with some businesses allowed to reopen under strict guidelines. Phase two reopening began June 6, with stricter mandates under phase two imposed later.
As of July 21, Louisiana is one of 28 states with statewide masks mandates in place while other states have placed certain cites and areas under mask orders, and some states have no mask mandates.