Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) on Friday released updated guidance urging residents to wear masks indoors when social distancing is not possible as the state sees thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day due in part to the highly transmissible delta variant.
Edwards said in a press release that the updated recommendations were made in consultation with the Louisiana Department of Health due to the rapid rise in infections and hospitalizations, as well as notification from the White House that Louisiana had been labeled a “state of concern,” with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
Friday's guidelines say that all residents should wear masks as an extra layer of protection, regardless of their vaccination status.
The health department recommended that businesses “review their operations to accommodate employees in a way that reduces unnecessary contact to avoid the spread of COVID in the workplace.”
State health officials also said that anyone who has had a known or suspected exposure to an infected individual should “immediately” take a COVID-19 test and should promptly isolate if they test positive.
Edwards stopped short of issuing a statewide mask mandate or specific restrictions on gatherings and businesses.
The governor said in a statement Friday that Louisiana leads the country in case growth, attributing this to the delta variant and the low pace of vaccinations.
“This should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched our case counts and hospitalizations continue to climb, and it necessitates additional guidance for how all people should stay safe in Louisiana right now,” he wrote.
“Right now, Louisiana has the best tool it has ever had to fight this surge: the COVID-19 vaccines,” he continued, adding that while the weekly vaccination rate has increased, “We need even more people in our state to go sleeves up and take the COVID-19 vaccine.”
“Increased vaccinations, when coupled with more masking, testing and distance, can get us out of the fourth surge, but only if people take action quickly,” he added.
As of Friday, about 41 percent of Louisiana residents had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, with only 36 percent fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are in a very dangerous surge right now,” Louisiana's state health officer, Joseph Kanter, said in a statement.
“To ensure their own safety people in Louisiana should take precautions immediately. Masking and testing will limit death and suffering until we make it through this,” he added.
The governor's announcement comes after New Orleans Mayor LaToya CantrellLaToya CantrellCurfew on New Orleans lifted following Hurricane Ida Louisiana revokes licenses for nursing homes that sent residents to warehouse during Ida New Orleans mayor vows 'accountability across the board' for senior living complexes after Ida MORE (D) tweeted Wednesday that she was recommending "everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should wear a mask indoors when with people who are not in their immediate household."