KATC is getting answers about the latest emergency proclamation from Gov. John Bel Edwards in the COVID-19 public health emergency, which now includes a mask mandate for residents across the state.
Viewers have been asking, what is the punishment for not wearing a mask in public?
KATC asked St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars, who practices law in Louisiana, to get his legal perspective.
“Yes, anytime the governor issues an executive order, there is a provision in law that provides a penalty for not adhering to that order,” said Cedars.
He referred to LA RS: 29:724-E, which states that in the event of an emergency declared by the governor, any person or business violating the order can be fined up to $500 or confined in parish jail for up to 6 months.
Cedars also referred to Section 4-D of the governor’s latest order dealing with the face covering order that says a citation can be issued to businesses or organizations that fail to enforce the mask requirement. That section states:
Citation under this Section shall be written only to businesses or organizations, other than religious organizations, that fail to enforce the requirement to wear face coverings. Operators of businesses and organizations are entitled to rely on the representations of their customers, patrons, or employees regarding whether or not they qualify for an exception from the face covering requirements. Businesses and organizations that rely on such a representation shall not be deemed to be in violation of this Emergency Proclamation.
Viewers have also asked, does the governor’s order carry the same weight as state law?
Cedars says it does. He cited LA RS 29:724-A, which states, “Executive orders, proclamations, and regulations so issued shall have the force and effect of law.”
Cedars also spoke about how the mandate could be enforced and said that the only reason that it could not be enforced would be if a court of law declared that the governor exceeded his authority in issuing the emergency order.
Asked if the governor has the authority to order a mask mandate for citizens, Cedars said he thinks he does.
“He is dealing with a declared public health emergency,” he said, citing the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act. “The governor has the authority to do everything necessary to protect the state and people.”
Cedars said that another argument over the mask mandate would be if it would be valid under state and federal constitutional grounds as it may infringe on a person’s individual liberty.
Cedars said that this is a temporary order for people to wear masks based on the opinions articulated from health officials from the local, state and national level to prevent the spread of the virus, and is less restrictive than laws regarding public safety over things like wearing seat belts while driving and not smoking indoors, which are permanent.
Viewers have also been asking about the exemption to the mask mandate for anyone with a medical condition that would prevent them from wearing a face covering.
According to a Q&A from The Current with Dr. Henry Kaufman, the interim chief medical officer for Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, Kaufman clarified the instances in which a mask may not be safe to wear in public:
There are no circumstances that come to mind where it would be unsafe for an individual to wear a mask. This includes individuals with asthma, emphysema and other respiratory diseases. Individuals with respiratory disease may feel as though it makes it more difficult to breathe but gas exchange through a thin mask or fabric covering as advocated by the CDC is only minimally affected if at all. The first thing that happens to every COVID patient who comes into the hospital is [we] place a mask on them. In the healthcare setting we do not consider pulmonary (breathing) diseases a valid contraindication to the wearing of a mask.
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