Following months of improvement in COVID-19 hospitalizations and with nearly three million vaccine doses administered, Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday signed an updated public health emergency order that removes all remaining business capacity restrictions and the vast majority of masking requirements.
According to the Governor's Office, Edward's current public health emergency will expire on Wednesday May 26, 2021 and Edwards will sign a new order.
"We have a lot of work to do but the order, helps keep the state in a response mode," Edwards explains about the reason to extend the emergency order.
In the new guidance, business capacity and crowd size guidelines will now be lifted. Masks are still being recommended for those who have not been vaccinated fully against COVID-19.
"COVID is not over," Edwards stated. "We don't have the percentage of people vaccinate to feel that confident. We have a lot of work to do."
Masks will be required in educational settings until the end of the current academic semester at which time state and local oversight boards will set their own masking policies. The Louisiana Department of Health will continue to revise guidance and masking recommendations for summer camps, following CDC guidance. The CDC recently announced that it was safe for vaccinated people to not wear masks in most settings.
Following Gov. Edwards' announcement regarding the face-covering requirement being lifted for students in K-12 schools, the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Sandy Holloway issued the following statement:
Earlier this month our Board directed Superintendent Brumley to meet with Governor Edwards to request removing the mask mandate for K-12 students, and I am pleased with the Governor's decision today to lift the requirement. Our state has been a leader in safely returning students to daily, in-person learning, and that progress will now continue with our school systems taking the reins in developing COVID-19 policies appropriate for their local communities. On behalf of BESE, I thank Governor Edwards, Superintendent Brumley and his team, state and local health officials, and our K-12 teachers and administrators across the state for their efforts and cooperation as we enter what is hopefully the final phase of educating through COVID-19 in Louisiana.
Under order of the State Health Officer, masks continue to be required in healthcare settings, which is a federal mandate. In addition, masks are required on public transportation and in jails and prisons, as per federal guidance.
Local governments and businesses may choose to have stronger restrictions than the state does and the Governor encourages Louisianans to respect all local or business mandates, especially when it comes to masking.
The Governor, the Louisiana Department of Health, the CDC and numerous public health officials recommend that unvaccinated individuals continue to wear a face mask in public and when they are with people outside of their households to reduce their likelihood of contracting COVID-19.
"If you are somewhere that requires a mask, wear a mask. If you feel like wearing a mask, wear your mask," Edwards said.
Edwards says that this will likely be the last press conference on the emergency orders.
Dr. Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health was on hand to discuss the current status of COVID and the vaccine.
Kanter says vaccines being widely available, a decreased state positivity rate and a better understanding of the virus are all helping in deciding on the loosening of restrictions.
"We are going to need to trust each other," Kanter says. "The virus is still in charge here."
He says that there is always a possibility of a roll back to restrictions if things worsen for the state.
3 Million doses of vaccine have been administered in the state. 31 percent of the state's population has completed the the vaccine series.
- Click here [gov.louisiana.gov] to read the Governor’s public health emergency order, which will be in place for 30 days and will be extended as long as Louisiana is actively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Click here [gov.louisiana.gov] to see slides from today’s media briefing.
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