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Federal judge rejects Louisiana bar owners' challenge to closure order

Federal judge rejects Louisiana bar owners' challenge to closure order
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A federal judge in Louisiana ruled Monday that the governor's order mandating the closure of bars due to COVID-19 concerns was constitutional, rejecting a challenge from several bar owners in the state.

The Advocate reported that Judge Martin Feldman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana wrote in his opinion that the bar owners' case was "strong" but did not rise to the level of overruling "deference due state officials during this pandemic."

"As between democratically accountable state officials and a federal court, who decides what measures best protect Louisianans during a global pandemic? The answer is state officials," Feldman, a Reagan appointee, wrote in a court filing.

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Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) banned on-site service in bars in mid-July as the state was approaching its peak of new daily coronavirus cases. He also introduced a statewide mask mandate.

"We know that face masks work. It's as simple as that," Edwards said at the time, criticizing the nationwide political debate that has emerged over wearing face masks to prevent transmission of the virus.

Louisiana has since seen its rate of new infections drop below 1,500 per day.

The state has reported more than 138,000 total coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, resulting in more than 4,500 deaths.