Louisiana ending COVID-19 mask mandate in most places

‘Now is the time,’ Gov. Edwards says

A surgical mask and an N95 mask hang on display for sale at a pharmacy. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.
A surgical mask and an N95 mask hang on display for sale at a pharmacy. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Beginning Wednesday, Louisiana’s private businesses — including bars, restaurants and theaters — and its local governments can choose whether to require masks for their customers and residents, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday during a press conference. Masks are still required for everyone on public transit, at schools and universities, and in health care facilities.

Outdoor events will also no longer have size restrictions. All indoor events and facilities can have up to 75 percent capacity with social distancing or 100 percent capacity if masks are required. Audience members of live music shows must be seated and 10 feet from the stage.

“We are doing much better overall,” Edwards said. “I believe now is the time to lift the mandate and continue to encourage people to mask, especially if they’re unvaccinated or vulnerable.”

The statewide mask mandate was enacted in July 2020 when Louisiana had a 12.8 percent positivity rate and 1,308 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. On Tuesday, Louisiana had a 3.5 percent positivity rate and 308 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. About 26 percent of Louisianians are fully vaccinated, including about two-thirds of Louisianians 65 or older.

“It’s not an end to mask wearing. It’s not an end to recommendations that people wear masks… but I think it is a reflection of where we are at this stage of the pandemic,” the governor said.