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'Mask Up' for the new normal as Louisiana reopens

“If you can get a mask, wear it. Cover your face as much as possible, particularly if you’re going to be in closed spaces,” one disease specialist said.

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana leaders want you to continue to “mask up” as the state starts easing Coronavirus restrictions and reopening the parts of the economy.

Public health experts warn now is not the time to let down your guard by lifting your mask.

“As we are opening up now, I think masks wearing becomes even more important,” Epidemiologist Dr. Susan Hassig from the Tulane University School of Public Health said.

“If you can get a mask, wear it. Cover your face as much as possible, particularly if you’re going to be in closed spaces,” Julio Figueroa, MD, an infectious disease expert from the LSU Health Science Center said.

Governor John Bel Edwards said as the state begins to reopen stores, restaurants and other businesses, all Louisianans should wear masks when in public.

Workers who come in contact with customers will be required to do so.

“It’s the neighborly thing to do,” Edwards said. “When you wear a mask, it protects your neighbor and vice versa.”

Wearing a mask doesn’t necessarily protect you from the Coronavirus.

But it does prevent your germs from infecting others.

Dr. Figueroa said masks should be part of our wardrobe until we get a better handle on the virus. That includes drugs to treat COVID-19 and a vaccine to keep people from getting the disease.

"The implication would be that any sort of control of what’s coming out of your mouth and nose is going to be helpful in terms of reducing transmission,” Figueroa said. “As we start opening things up and we are now starting to be together in common places, using common things, railings and tabletops and things like that, it becomes more important to kind of contain what virus is there.”

Tuesday, mask compliance was pretty good at New Orleans grocery stores.

At Audubon Park – not so much.

Dr. Hassig says people enjoying the park should at least keep a mask in their pocket.

“The problem is, if you stop to chat with your friend during your jog in Audubon Park then you probably need to be wearing a mask,” Hassig said.

While it’s hard to predict how long people will have to wear masks in public – what we do know is face coverings are one important tool in slowing the spread of the Coronavirus.

“As we are opening up now, I think masks wearing becomes even more important because more people are going to be on the sidewalks, on the streets, in the parks, going to restaurants, going to boutiques and stores. So, you’re going to all of a sudden come face to face with somebody potentially as you turn the corner in an aisle of a store,” Hassig said.

“There are times when the mask has to come off, even if you’re being really compliant in which case you have to be very careful about cleaning that environment after you’ve done that activity,” Figueroa said.

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