Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said he will not impose a mask mandate in unincorporated areas of the Parish following Governor John Bel Edwards' announcement to lift the statewide mask mandate in Louisiana. President Ricks said he applauds the Governor's decision to no longer enforce the mask mandate and believes this is a step in the right direction.
President Ricks said residents should understand that local businesses have the right to impose a mask mandate within their own facilities, and he asked that residents respect and honor those restrictions.
"This should help our local businesses that have struggled financially under the statewide mask mandate," Ricks said. "I am excited that this is a step in the right direction in that we are moving closer to the future when we will no longer require masks in any venue."
President Ricks said residents should still continue to monitor and follow CDC guidelines, use common sense and be mindful and respectful of others.
Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate, first implemented over the summer, will end when the newest COVID-19 proclamation goes into effect, Gov. Bel Edwards announced Tuesday.
The governor’s latest order, which will go into effect Wednesday, April 28, will give power to local leaders and business owners to set their own masking policies.
However, masks will still be required at K-12 schools, early childhood education centers, colleges and universities, hospitals, nursing homes, public transit, and state government buildings, Edwards said.
The newest order — which also eased restrictions on live music, waiting rooms in some businesses, and outdoor crowd sizes — will be in effect for 28 days, Edwards said.
“It’s not an end to mask wearing… or recommendations that people will wear masks… but I think it is a reflection of where we are at this stage of the pandemic,” Edwards said.
Edwards’ announcement came hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.
The new guidance also applied to unvaccinated people, who can also go maskless when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their households, or when they are at a small outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated people.
For much of the past year, the CDC had advised Americans to wear masks outdoors if they are within 6 feet of each other.
In Louisiana, Edwards implemented a statewide mask mandate in July in response to the state’s summer surge in cases and hospitalizations. Though backed by federal officials, the mandate drew much criticism from state officials and the public alike, especially over the last several weeks when neighboring states lifted masking requirements.
Despite lifting the statewide mask mandate, Edwards encouraged people to continue masking up if they haven’t been fully vaccinated or are in a more vulnerable demographic.
“We know that masks work,” Edwards said. “The evidence is clear and the science is well-established now and we’ve seen a very positive impact on our state. But we’ve had a mask mandate in place since the middle of July of last year. I think it’s now intuitive for people to wear a mask to protect themselves in higher risk settings and also to protect others.”
The relaxing of mask guidelines comes as the nation continues to vaccinate more people against the novel coronavirus. However, the uptake remains slower in Louisiana despite vaccines available to everyone over the age of 18 (or 16 with the Pfizer vaccine), regardless of employment or underlying health conditions.
As of the latest data, the state has administered more than 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, with more than 1.2 million residents completing a vaccine series. A total of 1,475,366 people have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Based on Louisiana’s estimated 4.6 million population, roughly 32 percent of the state has initiated a vaccine series while around 26 percent has been fully vaccinated. Both of those figures trail national averages, according to figures from the CDC.
“That’s not where we need to be and we’re going to have to continue to work hard to increase those numbers,” Edwards said.