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Edwards: Wear a mask because it's the right thing to do

Gov. Edwards
Posted at 1:25 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 16:23:51-04

Governor Edwards took off the gloves, so to speak, at his press conference Wednesday in talking about citizens who won't wear masks.

"I'm not mandating it, because I don't think we can enforce it. I don't think we should have to mandate it, if it's the right thing to do. Don't focus on whether you have the right not to, focus on whether it's the right thing to do. If everyone will do that, we'll all be better off," he said.

The people of the state have put in a lot of hard work, and it would be very sad if the numbers went back up because people aren't following the guidance for proper safety, he said.

"People don't to wear a mask because they feel well, and they think they don't have COVID-19 and they can't spread it. But that's illogical, because we know 40-50 percent of the people with it won't have symptoms - but they can still spread it," he said. "And people who do become symptomatic, we know that they can still spread it for 48 hours before any symptoms appear. In fact, some research indicates the viral load could be highest right before symptoms appear. So if you wait until you feel bad to put on a mask, you may have waited too long to protect the people around you."

A reporter asked Edwards if he was being more blunt today, and the governor said he's been broadcasting the same message and yet some people still aren't listening. He said he's disheartened to hear about people still getting together without social distancing, masks or other consideration to the risks.

"We say it so often and we assume it is being heard, and that is obviously not the case," Edwards said. "All the active cases in Louisiana have occurred while we've had restrictions in place. We need to make sure we are having an honest conversation, there are still risks out there of contracting this disease."

There were lots of questions about testing. Dr. Alexander Billioux, an internist who is Assistant Secretary of Health for the Office of Public Health at Louisiana Department of Health, said the testing goals are driven by the amount of virus in the community.

The state is still working with the federal government to ensure that testing continues to increase, including in at-risk communities, like nursing homes and the African-American community. But, he said, it can't be the state alone that's doing the testing. Nursing homes and medical providers need to participate, he said, and some aren't.

Billioux urged Louisiana residents against relaxing their guard against the virus.

"Get in the habit of wearing masks, indoors and outdoors," Billeaux says.

Billioux said he sees a lot of people wearing masks in New Orleans, and when he's in Baton Rouge in state buildings. But his colleagues are not seeing the same in other areas of the state.

"A good chunk of people are still not wearing masks themselves," he said. "We know the people we've mandated to wear masks are people in the business sectors who want to open up safely and be successful. We have not mandated that other people wear masks, all we can do is ask adamantly that they do so, to protect themselves and others."

Also, it's important to cooperate with the contact tracers, he said.

"Understand, even if you feel fine, that you're being asked to stay home for your own health and for the health of the people you love," he said.

If you're told you've been in contact with an infected person, take that seriously, he said.

One issue is that health officials are having trouble getting in touch with about half of the people they need to reach. They worry that some people won't answer the call because they are anxious about the conversation.

"This is a private conversation that is more about giving you information," Billioux said. "Answering the phone helps you. It provides you with resources."

As of Wednesday June 10, Louisiana has a total of 44,030 reported cases of COVID-19 with 2,855 deaths. That's an increase of 418 in cases, and an increase of 11 in deaths.

For a full breakdown click here.

The presser is set to begin at 2:30 pm. KATC will livestream that press conference on air, KATC.com and KATC's Facebook page.

A stream of the press conference can be viewed below:

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