Gov. Edwards announced that he’s lifting the statewide mask mandate at an Oct. 26, 2021 press conference. (Photo by Rachel Mipro/Louisiana Illuminator)
Gov. Edwards lifted Louisiana’s mask mandate, following a statewide decrease in COVID-19 cases. Starting Wednesday, masks won’t be required, except at K-12 schools that are not following U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance regarding quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
“We have made tremendous progress,” Edwards said, emphasizing that the worst of the fourth surge of COVID-19 in the state had subsided.
Edward is keeping the mask mandate in place for some schools after State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley decided to allow students to circumvent medical advice for COVID-19 quarantine over the objections of the governor.
Federal guidelines keep children out of school for days after being exposed to COVID-19. But Brumley said the quarantining negatively affects a child’s ability to learn, and that it should be the parent’s choice whether their child needs to stay home. Edwards said quarantining is necessary to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
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Under Edwards’ new rule, schools either have to keep masking, or enforce quarantine guidelines, effectively undermining Brumley’s parent choice option.
Individual businesses and local governments can continue to require masks as well. LSU will require masks on campus for the rest of the semester and a mask mandate is still in place in New Orleans. Masks are also still required in health care facilities and on mass transit, due to federal rules.
Numbers from the Louisiana Department of Health show 460 new COVID-19 cases and 16 new COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, with 323 patients hospitalized. At the peak of the fourth wave in August, 16.1% of Louisiana’s COVID-19 tests were positive. It’s now down to a rate of 2.7% statewide. No parishes in the state have above a 10% positive test rate.
But with only 47% of Louisiana residents fully vaccinated, the state still has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
The statewide mask mandate was reinstated in August and extended in late September following a concerning rise in COVID-19 hospitalization rates. The mandate applied to all indoor locations, including schools and higher education institutions for those ages 5 and older.
Dr. Joseph Kanter, state health officer, said he believes children ages 5-11 will be cleared for the Pfizer vaccine in the next few weeks, another potential way to decrease COVID-19 cases in the state. An FDA advisory committee voted to recommend authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for this age group Tuesday.
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“That’s another way to reduce school disruptions because once a child is fully vaccinated, then they no longer have to quarantine if they were exposed as long as they remain asymptomatic,” Kanter said.
Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna booster shots also have recently been made available to millions of residents in Louisiana. Booster shots are now “mix and match,” meaning those eligible can get the booster shot of their choosing, instead of just a booster shot of the vaccination they originally took.
Edwards mentioned his upcoming trip — he and his team leave Thursday for Scotland, to attend the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference.
“We have everything we need to be a global leader in clean energy,” Edwards said.
In a brief update on Hurricane Ida temporary housing distribution, Edwards said that about 190 travel trailers have been deployed, with more than 2,000 temporary housing units purchased.
Over 5,000 households — around 16,000 people — are still in transitional housing, according to Edwards. Edwards said the administration is trying to get people housed as quickly as possible.
“We’re not satisfied, we’re going to keep moving faster just as we’re able to do it,” Edwards said.
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