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Mask mandate lifted in Louisiana, River Parishes leave decision up to individual businesses

BATON ROUGE — Following months of sustained improvement in COVID hospitalizations and an increase in the supply and availability of vaccines, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that some mitigation measures will be eased and, starting April 28, the statewide mask mandate was lifted.

Mask policies in Louisiana will be set by local leaders and business owners. Under the governor’s new public health order, masks will still be required on public transit and in state government buildings, K-12 schools, early childhood education centers, colleges and universities, and healthcare facilities.

The St. John the Baptist Parish Council voted Tuesday night to join with other area parishes in lifting the mask mandate, allowing businesses to make their own decisions and set their own requirements regarding masks. However, Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said the Parish will continue mask mandates in government buildings. The Parish Council decided on Tuesday that each business will now have the right to make its own decision regarding masks.

In St. James Parish, Parish President Pete Dufresne  announced on Wednesday that its Parish mask mandate had been lifted. Masks will not be required at any Parish government buildings. However, residents are encouraged to remain vigilant.

“We ask residents to be responsible and accountable for your actions regarding the health and safety of those around you. If you are not vaccinated, I encourage you to seek out one of the many facilities in the parish offering vaccinations. If you feel sick or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 you are encouraged to self-quarantine and reduce exposure to others”, said Dufresne.

Local businesses in St. James have the authority to determine if they will require masks at their place of business.

St. Charles Parish President Matthew Jewell announced that the mask mandate in St. Charles Parish is lifted parish-wide. Masks will no longer be required in St. Charles Parish government buildings, including the courthouse. Additionally, temperature checks will no longer be required to enter government buildings.

Masks are still required in the courtrooms per orders by the 29th Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Charles.

Due to the size of the council chambers and the inability to properly social distance, masks will still be required during meetings taking place in the council chambers.

Per the Governor’s executive order, businesses now retain the authority to require masks for their employees and patrons.

More than one in four Louisianans are now fully vaccinated, including two-thirds of those 65 and older. The state of Louisiana joins the CDC and other federal and medical officials in recommending that people wear masks in public or when they are with unvaccinated people outside of their households.

All Louisianans 16 and older have been eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine for more than a month, and 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. We know masks work – the science is clear and we’ve seen the positive impact in our own state. It’s intuitive for people to protect themselves with masks in higher risk situations, and this important mitigation measure should continue. But we have many more tools for slowing the spread of COVID than we did even a few months ago, including better treatments and, most importantly, several highly effective and safe vaccines,” Gov. 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. Louisianans should respect each other and businesses and places where masks will be required as we move into a new phase of slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. 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.”

The order the governor signed Tuesday also eases restrictions on live music and allows some businesses, like salons, to re-open their waiting areas. Outdoor events will no longer have crowd limitations.

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.