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Louisiana ends mask mandate, except for some K-12 schools

Schools are allowed to opt-out of the mandate if they follow the CDC's quarantine policy
Credit: AP
Gov. John Bel Edwards announces he is extending Louisiana's face mask mandate for another month at a press conference held Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. The Democratic governor Tuesday credited the face covering requirement with keeping students safe from COVID-19 and helping to combat the state’s fourth surge of the coronavirus illness. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards is largely ending Louisiana’s nearly three-month-old indoor mask mandate since the state has emerged from its latest coronavirus spike and is seeing lower rates of COVID-19 infection. 

The Democratic governor is lifting the mask requirement for grocery stores, restaurants, bars, retailers, colleges, and other sites. But he’s keeping face-covering rules for Louisiana’s K-12 schools for the next 28 days. 

Edwards also said masks are still required in health care settings and will be required with respect to mass transit. This means if you are on a bus, plane, or in an airport, the federal rules remain in place.

School districts that maintain tight quarantine regulations for students who come into close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 won’t be required to have a mask mandate. But those that don’t require all exposed students to be sent home will have to keep students and staff masked up.

“The pandemic is not over. We do not know and we can not know what the future will bring,” Edwards said. 

Edwards' announcement will likely not apply to New Orleans which is under its own, stricter mask and vaccine mandates. City spokesperson Beau Tidwell said Tuesday that Mayor LaToya Cantrell will review local COVID data with the city's health department after the governor's announcement to determine if the city's mandate will remain in effect. 

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Louisiana has significantly declined after reaching record-setting levels in August. The state's Department of Health reported that there were 323 patients hospitalized in Louisiana on Monday - near the level reported before the Delta variant was found. Of those patients, 85 percent were unvaccinated.

"More than 2 million people are vaccinated and more than 2.5 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine and there has been a total of 4.75 million doses administered in the state of Louisiana," said Edwards.

Louisiana reported 3,022 hospitalizations on Aug. 17.

Christina Stephens, a spokesperson for Edwards' office, said that the hospitalizations total "marks a continued improvement in our fight to slow the spread." 

Louisiana reported 460 new COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths due to the virus since Monday. In total, 14,496 people in the state have died due to the virus since the pandemic began.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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