With a fourth COVID surge subsiding in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards has lifted a statewide mask mandate for most public indoor settings including restaurants, bars, and venues, with the caveat that local governments and businesses may set stricter policies than the state’s.
In an afternoon press conference on Tuesday, October 26, Gov. Edwards ended the mandate in settings statewide except for K-12 schools (which may opt out as long as they implement existing CDC quarantine guidance) while saying that he was “cautiously optimistic” and “very relieved that the worst of this fourth surge of COVID is clearly behind us.” As has been the case throughout the pandemic, he deferred to local governments and private businesses to set their own mask policies, which must be followed, Edwards said — and New Orleans residents shouldn’t expect the announcement to have an impact locally, at least not immediately.
“Whatever the governor’s announcements are today, you shouldn’t anticipate the city will change immediately,” New Orleans spokesperson Beau Tidwell warned earlier on Tuesday. Tidwell said that while the city was “seeing a good picture come together,” in terms of COVID infections and hospitalizations declining, “I can’t give you a specific date,” for when current restrictions might ease, regardless of statewide orders.
“I am waiting to hear the specifics on what they are going to do,” city health director Dr. Jennifer Avegno said Tuesday. “Even if he takes it off, we are going to really look closer to the sectors who benefit from those wearing masks.”
Gov. Edwards reissued the statewide indoor mask mandate in early August 2021, following peak levels of hospitalizations spurred by the delta variant of COVID-19. His executive order came a few days after New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced an indoor mask mandate, and he has has since extended it twice — right before Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana and again at the end of September. When Edwards reinstated the mask mandate in early August, there were 2,350 COVID patients hospitals statewide; as of Monday, October 25, 332 individuals are hospitalized with COVID in Louisiana, according to the Advocate.
New Orleans has lagged behind the rest of the state in easing restrictions throughout the pandemic, and in some cases gone a step further — as of mid-August, the city requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for indoor entry at bars, restaurants, and venues, in addition to its indoor mask mandate. New Orleans’s COVID positivity rate stands at 1.1 percent as of Tuesday, October 26.