Bel Edwards press conference

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards put the executive order mandating the wearing of masks or facial coverings when people could be physically distant from others in July 2020. He lifted the mandate today, effective Wednesday. 

Gov. John Bel Edwards lifted the state's mask mandate effective Wednesday, giving local governments and businesses the authority to set their mask requirements.

Although the elimination of the statewide mandate is an easing of the existing regulations, masks will still be required public transit and in state government buildings, K-12 schools, early childhood education centers, colleges and universities, and healthcare facilities.

In addition to lifting the statewide mandate, the order Edwards signed Tuesday also eases restrictions on live music and allows some businesses, like salons, to re-open their waiting areas. For theaters, event spaces, festivals and fairs and other outdoor events, there will be no limitations on outdoor capacity. Indoors, a facility may choose to operate at 75 percent capacity while enforcing six feet of social distancing or at 100 percent capacity with masking required and enforced.

For indoor sporting events, capacity is limited to 75 percent of capacity with social distancing, or 100 percent capacity if a mask mandate is enforced at the venue.

Capacity will not be limited outdoors.

For live music, new regulations will require 10 feet of space between the stage and the audience and crowds must be seated. Bars will still only be open to those 21 and older.

The announcement from Baton Rouge comes on the same day that the Centers for Disease Control changed its mask guidance for outdoor areas, saying that vaccinated individuals in low-density groups should not have to wear masks. The CDC did keep a masking recommendation in place for those people in a large crowd, such as a festival or a concert, and for those indoors.

According to the CDC, the chance of infection from COVID-19 indoors is 20 times higher than in an outdoor situation.

In announcing the lifting of the statewide mask mandate, Edwards cited the 25 percent of Louisianans who have completed their vaccination regimen, including two-thirds of those 65 and older.

All Louisiana residents 16 and older have been eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine for more than a month. Louisiana was one of the first states to broaden vaccine eligibility to the full population.

“Many Louisianans have been wearing masks for more than a year now and the statewide mask mandate has been in place for nearly 10 months," Edwards said. “I want to be clear: this is not the end of wearing masks in public, as COVID-19 and the spread of variants are still a real threat in our communities."

He also said he will not alter his mask discipline.

"I will continue to wear a mask in government buildings and in public, especially when I do not know if someone around me has been vaccinated, and I encourage everyone to do this as well,” Edwards said.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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