Louisiana keeps its mask mandate; Mississippi and Texas end theirs

By: - March 3, 2021 6:00 am
Louisiana extends face mask mandate

Visitors walk past face mask signs along Decatur Street in the French Quarter on July 14, 2020 in New Orleans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday loosened some of the COVID-19 restrictions he’d imposed but left Louisiana’s mask mandate in place; however, his counterparts to the east and west said they’re no longer mandating masks for their residents.

Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi rescinded an executive order that had mandated face masks be worn in public. Gov. Gregg Abbott of Texas not only rescinded the mask mandate in Texas, but he also said he is opening up the state in full, meaning that there are no more COVID-19 capacity regulations that Texans must follow.

Both Reeves and Abbott are Republicans. Edwards is a Democrat. Edwards moved Louisiana out of Phase 2 and into Phase 3 of its coronavirus re-opening plan Tuesday, but he left the mask mandate in place, and he and the state’s public health officer Joe Kanter emphasized that the loosening of restrictions shouldn’t be interpreted as the end of the public health crisis.

“With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus,” Gov.r Abbott said in remarks to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce. “We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed. 

“Today’s announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny.” 

On Twitter, Mississippi’s Reeves wrote, “Starting tomorrow, we are lifting all of our county mask mandates and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules. Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed. It is time!”

The percent of people who’ve been infected with COVID-19 and the percentage of people who’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is fairly consistent across all three states.

In Louisiana, 9.3 percent of the population has tested positive for COVID-19, and as of March 1, about 8 percent of the population had been fully vaccinated. In Mississippi, 10 percent of the population has tested positive for COVID-19, and 8 percent have been fully vaccinated.  In Texas, 8 percent of the people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19, and 7 percent have been vaccinated.

Although public health restrictions regarding COVID-19 have generally been seen as something Democrats are more inclined to push, both Abbott and Reeves issued face-mask mandates before Edwards did. Until his counterparts in those states had acted, Edwards had insisted that a mask mandate would do more harm than good as it might make residents resist wearing masks in ways that advising them to do so would not.

During a rare Saturday press conference in July, Edwards announced that 2,000 new COVID-19 infections had been counted that day and that he was imposing a mandate. “You know that I’ve been extremely patient over the last few weeks,” he said then. “None of the steps I’m announcing today are steps that I wanted to take.

He has been an unyielding proponent of mask wearing since then.

Louisiana reported 770 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday for a total of 431,271 and 19 new deaths for a total of 9,647.


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Jarvis DeBerry
Jarvis DeBerry

Jarvis DeBerry, former editor of the Louisiana Illuminator, spent 22 years at The Times-Picayune (and later NOLA.com) as a crime and courts reporter, an editorial writer, columnist and deputy opinions editor. He was on the team of Times-Picayune journalists awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after that team’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly flood that followed. In addition to the shared Pulitzer, DeBerry has won awards from the Louisiana Bar Association for best trial coverage and awards from the New Orleans Press Club, the Louisiana/ Mississippi Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists for his columns. A collection of his Times-Picayune columns, “I Feel to Believe” was published by the University of New Orleans Press in September 2020.