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Edwards announces mask mandate for Louisiana

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Posted at 11:32 AM, Aug 02, 2021

Gov Edwards announced Monday that he will put in place a mask mandate for all Louisianans.

Along with a long list of officials, Edwards announced that with the latest numbers the state must do more to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"It has become extremely clear that our current mitigation in place can deal with our current surge of COVID,' he said. "No signs that things will flatten."

Edwards said he is temporarily reinstating the mask mandate for unvaccinated and vaccinated people. Mask wearing will be when indoors. The mandate will go into effect on Wednesday August 4, 2021.

All children age 5 and up and all adults will be a part of this mandate, he said. This also includes all school campuses.

Louisiana’s temporary indoor statewide mask mandate will stay in place until at least September 1, but may be extended if necessary.

Edwards took the weekend to look over data with state and health officials before determining his decision. The state is currently in a 4th surge with cases rising each day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday released data that shows that while vaccination reduces one’s chance of becoming infected with COVID-19, those who do become infected with the Delta variant despite being fully vaccinated are likely at risk of transmitting it to others.

The Governor's Office says that driven largely by Louisiana’s insufficient vaccination rate and the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, COVID-19 cases in the state have grown exponentially.

Louisiana remains No. 1 nationwide for number of new COVID-19 cases per capita.

"The temporary indoor statewide mask mandate will help slow the spread of COVID-19 and limit suffering and death in Louisiana until we are through this fourth surge."

The indoor mask mandate also applies to K-12 schools, universities, and other higher education institutions, which return to on-campus learning in August. In accordance with new guidance from the CDC, all people on campuses should be masked indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.

“It has never been more clear that we are in an unchecked COVID surge that, in addition to threatening the health and wellbeing of many Louisianans, also threatens the capacity of our hospitals and medical facilities to deliver care to their patients. That is simply unacceptable, and after reviewing new data from the CDC, speaking with public health advisors, and hearing from hospital leadership and the business community, I am reinstating Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate indoors, including in schools to protect our children who are too young to be vaccinated and our teachers and staff,” Gov. 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. Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is another. We have the tools we need to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and save lives, and I am pleading with unvaccinated Louisianans to get their shot as soon as they can to protect themselves. We can end this nightmare, but it is going to take all of us working together to do it.”

“The data in Louisiana clearly point to the severity of our situation, and the urgency to act now,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, State Health Officer. “Over the weekend we reviewed new data from the CDC showing that while vaccination reduces one’s chance of becoming infected with COVID-19, those who do become infected with the Delta variant despite being fully vaccinated are likely at risk of transmitting it to others. 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.”

Edwards said that right now, he is not taking any tools off the table to get the COVID surge under control if masking and vaccinations do not work.

Details on the Mask Mandate are below:

As has always been the case, local leaders may implement mitigation measures that are more comprehensive and restrictive than the current state guidelines, should they feel this is best for their communities.

STATEWIDE MASK MANDATE

Face masks that properly cover the wearer’s mouth and nose should be worn indoors at all times, unless a person is in a home, under the Governor’s statewide mask mandate, which will be in place until at least September 1.

The order requires face coverings for everyone age 5 or older or enrolled in kindergarten, 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

Face coverings are highly encouraged for those ages 2 to 4 as tolerated.

As with the Governor’s previous mandate, children younger than kindergarten age are exempted if they cannot wear a mask. However, the CDC and the Louisiana Department of Health strongly encourage indoor mask wearing in public for all children aged two and older, especially as they are not yet eligible for the COVID vaccine. Generally, LDH shares these reminders for individuals and families who are trying to stay as safe as possible during the COVID-10 pandemic:

  1. If you can do an activity outdoors instead of indoors, do it outdoors
  2. Follow good hygiene practices (wash your hands vigorously and frequently, and don’t touch your face)
  3. Stay away from crowded settings
  4. Work virtually if possible
  5. If you suspect you have been exposed to COVID-19, get tested immediately
  6. If you’re in an at-risk group, be extra careful
  7. Everyone who is sick or who has COVID symptoms should stay home

GUIDANCE FOR LARGE GATHERINGS

Today, the Louisiana Department of Health additionally issued guidance to the public about large event gatherings during the fourth surge of COVID-19 in Louisiana, including ways to lower risk for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

LDH recommends:

  • Limiting the size of indoor gatherings, moving events outdoors, or hosting meetings and events virtually to reduce the likelihood of COIVD-19 spread.
  • All participants of indoor meetings and events are required to be masked.
  • People with underlying health conditions that make them more likely to have severe COVID complications should avoid nonessential trips outside of the home.
  • Event hosts and facilities should practice strong sanitation and hygiene practices and provide hand sanitizer for those who need it.
  • Spaces should be staged to accommodate at least six feet of distance between guests.

TESTING AND QUARANTINE GUIDANCE

Under guidance issued by LDH two weeks ago, all businesses should review their operations to accommodate employees in a way that reduces unnecessary contact to avoid the spread of COVID in the workplace.

In addition, all people should take a COVID test immediately after a known or suspected exposure to COVID-19 and take the following actions:

  • If positive, they should isolate immediately.
  • If negative, they should retest again between five and seven days post-exposure.
  • If they develop symptoms of COVID-19 at any point they should test and immediately isolate pending the results.

This guidance will remain in place at least until Louisiana is safely out of its fourth COVID-19 surge, with additional guidance and mitigation measures put in place if and when necessary to slow the spread of the more contagious and virulent Delta variant and preserve hospital capacity.
At this time, the CDC advises that fully vaccinated individuals who are not experiencing COVID symptoms do not need to quarantine following an exposure to COVID-19, and LDH is not yet altering this guidance.

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, even those who are fully vaccinated or without a known exposure, should get tested.

Anyone who tests positive should immediately isolate. Isolation (for those who test positive for COVID-19) typically consists of:

  • If symptomatic, at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared, symptoms are improving, and at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication
  • If asymptomatic but with a positive test, 10 days from the time the test sample was collected

Call 211 to find a COVID-19 testing site near you.
HOW TO GET A COVID VACCINE IN LOUISIANA

Everyone aged 12 and older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Louisiana. The FDA has only authorized one of the three COVID-19 vaccines – from Pfizer – for children ages 12 to 17. Parents should confirm with the vaccine provider that their child is under 18 to ensure Pfizer vaccine is available before making an appointment.

  • COVID-19 vaccines are widely available at 1,437 locations in all of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, including at pharmacies, hospitals, health care clinics, and doctor’s offices.
  • For a list of locations, visit LDH’s vaccine directory or visit vaccines.gov [gov.louisiana.gov], which is maintained by the federal government.
  • To get a list of vaccine locations near you text your ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) in English, or VACUNA (822862) in Spanish.
  • If you have questions, would like to speak with a medical professional, or need help scheduling an appointment, call 211 or Louisiana’s vaccine hotline at 1-855-453-0774.

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Several guests speakers joined Governor Edwards at Monday's press conference, they spoke of their work in the medical field and the strain on staff, patients, and hospitals.

Dr. Mark Kline, Physician-in-Chief and Chief Academic Officer, Children's Hospital New Orleans spoke at Monday's press conference saying that he is worried about Louisiana's children now more than he has ever been.

With the Delta variant, Kline says that children are being more impacted than before. Childrens hospitals are no exception to the surge in patients. Kline says every childrens facility is full.

Census as high as 20 patients admitted with COVID, the greatest number in hospitals was 7 prior to this point in childrens hospitals. Kline says that these patients in pediatrics require intense medical care. Kline says that positivity rate is 15 to 20 percent for children who come to get tested at the childrens hospital in New Orleans.

Healthcare staff ill with COVID has limited care, Kline said. Those staff must be isolated while positive with COVID.

"Vaccination is clearly the answer. The low rate here in Louisiana means we are susceptible to this surge."

He encouraged masking, social distancing, hand washing and vaccination. Kline said that this year, influenza will most likely be a "heavy year" That is a formula, he says, for childrens health systems to be strained.

Dr. Phyllis Mason, Chief Medical Officer, Natchitoches Regional Medical Center says that staff at her hospital are strained and demoralized.

At this time, more and more people are comfortable with returning to the hospital which is straining capacity now that COVID patients are coming in.

"It is creating a bottleneck." she said. "We are holding them in the emergency room for 2 to 4 days before we can get them a bed. Before we can transfer them anywhere."

She says that now this strain is causing a health safety problem. "We are not able to provide routine care to non-COVID patients.

Dr. Sandra Kemmerly, Medical Director of Hospital Quality, Ochsner Health spoke about the Delta variant saying that this variant is stronger causing more suffering for the medical field and for Louisianans.

"The vaccines work," she said. "Many people in our state are not vaccinated."

The vaccine prevents death, Kemmerly said, at a rate greater than 99 percent. She stated that vaccination is recommended for all those who are eligible.

"Don't wait," she said. "This COVID variant has changed how we see patients. The misinformation is showing that it is hard to dispel." For those with questions, Kemmerly stated that those with questions should see their doctor and ask questions.

Dr. Catherine O'Neal, Chief Medical Officer, Our Lady of the Lake spoke about the number of people in hospitals across the state.

"We are no longer giving adequate care to patients. These are the darkest days of this pandemic." O'Neal urged Louisianans to wear their masks and get vaccinated. "If you get vaccinated today and mask update, then I doubt I will ever see you."

She spoke of the limited number of beds for patients who are in need. Beds for people other than COVID patients who need them.

Michele Sutton, President and Chief Executive Officer, North Oaks Health System in Hammond spoke on the operation standpoint.

Her hospital has seen a surge in cases, which has caused much of the location to become full of COVID patients. Those with serious medical cases having to wait for a bed or to be seen by a doctor.
"We have counselors coming in to talk to staff," she said. "How do we care? Who gets to have surgery and who doesn't?"

Sutton said that staffing is low. "Healthcare workers are heroes but this has been a long seven month. We need you," she said.

Officials with the state's hospitality department spoke about restaurants and other businesses. They urged that those wishing to continue to patronize local businesses and restaurants to continue to do so.

Choose delivery or takeout, he said. They ask that residents work to get the COVID pandemic under control and wear a mask and listen to what business owners ask of you.

Watch live below:

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