By David Jacobs | The Center Square
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards will extend the COVID-19 public health emergency order that expires Wednesday but virtually all the restrictions meant to control the spread of the illness will be lifted, Edwards said Tuesday.
State mandates limiting the number of people who can gather indoors or outdoors will end. Face coverings will continue to be required on public transportation (which reflects a federal mandate, Edwards said) and in health care facilities, jails and prisons. Masks are “recommended strongly” for unvaccinated people because they still are at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19, he said.
The mask mandate for schools will end at the end of this school year, after which systems will set their own mask policies. Local governments and businesses retain the right to set their own standards.
While the state’s vaccination rate is not what officials hoped for, the availability of vaccine doses continues to hold down case growth, hospitalizations and deaths.
Edwards said he expects to keep a version of Louisiana’s emergency order in place as long as an emergency is declared at the federal level.
“We have an awful lot of work to do,” Edwards said, explaining why the order still is needed in his view. For example, the National Guard continues helping with testing, vaccinations and distributing food at food banks, he said.
“COVID is not over,” Edwards said.
More than 1.6 million Louisiana residents out of a population of about 4.6 million have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot, and more than 1.4 million are fully vaccinated, according to state officials.