Governor calls for return to masks indoors

Marlisa Harding

Gov. John Bel Edwards issued new COVID-19 guidance on Friday due to the record-breaking infection surge the state is experiencing. The guidance states that vaccinated and unvaccinated residents should wear masks indoors if six feet of social distancing can’t be maintained, that businesses should review accommodations to reduce transmission among employees, and that all people should get tested after potential COVID-19 exposure. 

Wednesday marked the third-highest daily case count of COVID-19 in the state with 327,000 new cases reported on Friday, Edwards said. The statewide average daily case per 100,000 residents has increased more than 200 percent in the last two weeks. 

The state’s percent positivity rate is up to 8.7 percent and the number of people hospitalized from the disease has also increased drastically since the beginning of the month. 

“There are now four times the number of people in the hospital than just a few weeks ago,” he added, with 82 individuals on ventilators.

These rates rank Louisiana as the “highest growth rate of new cases per capita in the United States of America,” Edwards said. 

“The White House has listed Louisiana as a state of concern,” he added. 

Louisiana’s new guidance is different from the Center for Disease Control’s current guidelines, Edwards admitted. 

“It (CDC’s) might be good guidance for most states, but not the state that has the highest growth rate in the country,” he said. “We’ve always relied on the CDC for guidance, but we’ve also always tailored those recommendations for what was happening here in Louisiana, and we’re doing that again.”

Louisiana’s surge is directly linked to the state’s low vaccination rate. That rate combined with the more transmissible Delta variant presents a grim outlook for Louisiana if things don’t turn around soon, Edwards said. 

“Because of our low vaccination rate, because of the summer season with school about to start, K-12 and higher education, this is really the perfect storm. The conditions are ripe for catastrophic outcomes for far too many individuals and families.”

Armed now with vaccines, Edwards said the solution should be fairly simple. “A year ago, we didn’t have these vaccines. We all looked forward to the day and we prayed the day would come quickly when we would have safe and effective vaccine to get the pandemic under control.”

With only 48 percent of the state vaccinated with at least one shot, it’s time to get serious about COVID-19 prevention and mitigation efforts, he said. “Let’s dust off our masks for the time being and focus on getting more people vaccinated.”

In addition to the current concern over the state’s increasing number of cases, there is also growing concern that the Delta variant could spawn a future, more dangerous variant than its predecessor, Edwards said. 

“It’s hard to imagine, being worse, as indications are the viral load you get from the Delta variant may be 1,000 times higher than it was…(But) if we don’t want to risk more variants, we have to slow the transmission.”

Executive Branch agencies will begin requiring masks for state employees on Monday and additional guidance for the rest of the state “may come later,” Edwards said. 

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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards makes remarks and answers questions during a news conference about the state’s COVID-19 situation.

Associated Press

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