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Jefferson Parish will require everyone to wear masks in businesses

"It will be mandatory that if you go into a business...that you wear a face mask or face covering," the parish president said.

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — Citing a spike in case numbers from the area, Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng said Monday she would sign an emergency proclamation forcing everyone to wear masks when in businesses or restaurants.

Sheng said the proclamation would take effect Wednesday. 

"It will be mandatory that if you go into a business...that you wear a face mask or face covering," she said. 

The mandate will apply to customers and employees alike. 

"In the common areas of office buildings, this is our requirement," Sheng said. "These are common-sense measures that the medical community agrees on." 

She said city attorneys are looking into whether the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office could be drafted as the enforcing agency for the proclamation. Enforcement under JPSO could lead to citations for people who do not abide by the mask-wearing regulations, but Sheng said "nobody will go to jail for not wearing a mask." 

Monday's escalation comes after a soft-handed parish response Friday. Sheng at that time unveiled a coronavirus hotline where customers could report businesses for not complying with coronavirus regulations. 

At that time, Sheng said her administration didn't have the ability to enforce mask-wearing or social distancing and said parish officials would reach out to educate businesses out of compliance about best practices for dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, but promised to report repeat offenders to the fire marshal. 

According to Sheng, businesses will be responsible for requiring customers to comply and reporting when customers refuse. 

"No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service," she said.

In Jefferson Parish, many of the recently reported cases have been among young people, leading to fears of asymptomatic spread through the community as public spaces such as restaurants and bars open up again. 

In nearby Florida and Texas, plans of reopening have been put on ice as state officials have closed bars again following coronavirus case spikes. Louisiana has also seen growing case numbers over the past several days, with more than 800 cases reported throughout the state Monday. 

Sheng's announcement comes less than a week before the Fourth of July. Independence Day is being looked at warily by public health experts, who worry that the warm weather and summer traditions could lead to people not practicing social distancing techniques. 

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