Louisianians must continue to wear masks, Edwards said, as state reports lowest COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations in a year

New Orleans Mask
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)

The falling number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and the increasing number of Louisianians who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 doesn’t mean that the state’s face mask mandate is going to be relaxed anytime soon, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday during his monthly radio show on  89.3 FM WRKF in Baton Rouge.

Edwards said that until every Louisianan is vaccinated, it is not only important for residents to continue to wear masks, but that it’s also important for them to observe social distance recommendations and to abide by the state’s mitigation measures.  It’s even more important, Edwards said, because the more easily transmissible UK variant of the novel coronavirus “should be the most prevalent form of the virus in circulation in the United States and in Louisiana.”

The state’s COVID-19 percent positivity rate was calculated to be 2.9 percent Wednesday, the lowest measured since March 2020.  The 446 people statewide hospitalized for COVID-19 was also the lowest measured since March 2020.

Ayame Dinkley, the chief administrative officer of LCMC Health said Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, one of the health system’s hospitals, said on Twitter Wednesday that Touro was “COVID free for the first time since the pandemic started.”

Neighboring states Texas and Mississippi have ditched their statewide mask mandates, but Edward said he won’t be following suit.

“If you tell people, ‘OK, we’re going to remove the mask mandate,’ but then you also say, ‘We strongly encourage you to keep wearing the mask,’ they don’t hear the second part,” Edwards said. “Because in their mind, they’re gonna say, ‘Well, if wearing the mask is important, you wouldn’t have removed the mandate.’ 

“Well, it remains important,” Edwards  said.

As for the vaccination effort, Louisiana isn’t having any issue distributing COVID-19 vaccines in a timely manner, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.The state could soon be in need of volunteers, though.

Louisiana is expecting a “big increase” in vaccine doses in early April, Edwards said, “especially of (the) Johnson & Johnson (vaccine), which means we’re going to be doing a lot more mass vaccination events.”

“Anybody out there who believes they have the right skill set and experience and wants to help” is invited to sign up as a volunteer at vaccine administration events,”  Edwards said. “You can help by giving shots or you can just help move people through the process.”

Louisianans looking to volunteer can click here to register.