Louisiana governor reinstates mask mandate

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) reinstated a statewide mask mandate for everyone 5 years old and up as the Pelican State has hit the most cases per capita in the U.S.

The governor announced the mask requirement over Twitter, citing surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which he said are “threatening the ability of hospitals to deliver care.”

The mandate will go until at least Sept. 1, but Edwards said it could be extended if needed. 

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The move was based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), advice from health advisers and insight from hospitals and businesses, Edwards said in a press release

“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,” he said in the statement.

“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,” he added. “We can end this nightmare, but it is going to take all of us working together to do it.”

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Louisiana’s case count per capita skyrocketed in July, starting the month with an average of eight daily cases per 100,000 people before documenting 89 cases per 100,000 people on Saturday, according to data from The New York Times

With a daily average of 4,119 new cases as of Sunday, Louisiana has seen its case count more than triple within two weeks. A majority of the 10 counties and parishes with the highest case count per capita in the U.S. are in Louisiana.

The state’s daily average hospitalizations of more than 1,500 is almost triple the amount from 14 days ago. 

At the same time, Louisiana has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country with 37 percent of the population considered fully vaccinated, according to the Mayo Clinic. Less than half of adults, 47 percent, are fully vaccinated. 

State and local governments across the country are considering mask recommendations and mandates as the delta variant has rapidly spread across the U.S. Los Angeles County was the first major county to reimpose a mask requirement last month. 

Last week, the CDC updated its mask recommendations for fully vaccinated people to wear masks in indoor public places in high-risk areas, citing new data that suggested vaccinated people can still transmit the virus.

Oregon has since required masks in schools and state buildings, and Washington, D.C., has returned to mandating masks indoors. 

Every parish in Louisiana is considered to have high transmission, with at least 100 cases per 100,000 people or at least 10 percent of tests coming back positive.