BATON ROUGE — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Saturday that he is signing an executive order putting a mask requirement in place effective Monday.
“Masks are now mandated statewide for people 8 years old and older unless they have a health condition that keeps them from wearing a mask,” Edwards said.
Edwards said he is not putting the state back under the Phase One guidelines, but bars that do not serve food will be prevented from serving customers for indoor consumption.
“They can continue curb service,” Edwards said. He also said that restaurants which have bars can continue to serve alcohol, but only for patrons as a part of a meal.
"I just announced that I am closing every bar," Edwards said in answer to a question. "I don't know how to make it simpler than that."
Edwards said that portion of the order will affect some 3,100 businesses.
He added that many of the outbreaks identified in the last few weeks were found to have originated in bars and informal gatherings, reiterating the need for a 50-person limit on indoor informal gatherings.
“These are social gatherings we are talking about with 50 or more people indoors,” Edwards said, adding that for outdoor gatherings physical distance will have to be maintained.
“What we have good reason to believe is that the cause is informal backyard gatherings,” Edwards said. “Birthday parties, wedding showers. People say, ‘I only invited close relatives and close friends.’ Well, guess what? Your close relatives and your close friends have COVID-19.”
He also added that the current Phase Two allowances for essential businesses, churches and other exempted businesses will remain in place.
In announcing the restrictions, Edwards said each parish or municipality can opt out of the mask restriction if they meet the White House guidelines for controlling the spread of COVID-19. Currently, only three parishes — Grant, Red River and West Feliciana — meet the standard of having fewer than 100 positive cases per 100,000 population for preceding two weeks.
“None of the steps I am announcing today are steps I wanted to take,” Edwards said. “But I think they are essential, and I think you will see them being adopted more and more in other areas across the country.”
He also said that the enactment of the stricter standards will not have an immediate effect on the state’s numbers.
“There is no reason to believe numbers are going to get any better anytime soon,” Edwards said. “They are likely to get worse. That is why we are taking the steps we are taking today.”
He said that the administration will evaluate the state’s progress before the current Phase Two order expires on July 24 and make a determination at that time on the state’s next steps.