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Masks will be mandatory for some Louisiana workers, Gov. Edwards says

Several parishes are giving out free masks to residents.

NEW ORLEANS — Some Louisiana workers will be required to wear face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19, Governor John Bel Edwards says. 

Starting Friday, May 1, any employees who have contact with the public must wear face masks or covers, Edwards said on Monday after announcing he would extend Louisiana's Stay at Home order until at least May 15.  

Edwards also encouraged businesses to require their customers wear masks as well. 

The directive comes as the coronavirus outbreak slows and the state shifts toward reopening businesses. Edwards said Monday the state was on the right track but certain areas were still seeing increases in COVID-19 cases and did not meet the guidelines to reopen laid out by the White House.    

The governor had repeatedly said masks would play an important role in reopening Louisiana's economy, which has been  shutdown besides essential businesses since March 23. He said last week that wearing a mask would have to be normalized as the "polite" thing to do, "like holding the door for someone."  

The governor's orders, while not technically law, can technically be enforcement through misdemeanor charges for "disobeying the governor's orders," which carry a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in parish jail.

RELATED: Gov. Edwards extends Stay at Home Order to May 15

Several parish governments are distributing free masks to their residents. 

In Jefferson Parish, Councilmember  Jennifer Van Vrancken and her staff were set to distribute cloth masks to the public on Tuesday, April 28 from 10 a.m. -  2 p.m. at the East Bank Regional Library. 

Hanes donated 5,000 masks to be given away. Other giveaway locations will be available later in the week. 

In St. Charles Parish, washable masks will be available for pick up every day from 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. at the Edward A. Dufresne Center and Destrehan High School. 

The St. Charles Parish school district was also giving away masks Tuesday during food distraction at the Lafon Performing Arts Center.

People in St. John Parish can also pick up free reusable masks. They'll be given away Tuesday, April 28 at the Regala Gym in Reserve and again on Thursday, April 30 -- first at West St. John High School from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. and again at Pleasure Bend Fire Station in Vacherie from 4 - 5 p.m. 

The 20,000 masks up for distribution in St. John were donated by Hanes.

St. Tammany Parish will hand out about 90,000 donated, reusable masks to residents and will release a schedule for distribution at a later date.

RELATED: Restaurants prepare for outdoor seating amidst stay at home order changes

There are other adjustments with Edwards' mandate that ease business restrictions ahead of the new May 15 end date. 

Malls will remain closed, but stores can offer curbside service. Restaurants will be allowed to open their outside areas for people to eat, but cannot offer table service. 

The extension of the Stay at Home order was met by more vocal frustration with business owners. The leaders of the Louisiana Association of Business said the group was disappointed, and said the fact grocery stores have operated successfully is prove the public can be protected.

RELATED: Business groups 'disappointed' by Gov. Edwards' Stay at Home Order extension

Still, Edwards pointed out that even during the strict Stay-at-Home restrictions, Louisiana added 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

"To put that in perspective, they became ill when residents were under the restrictions to not leave the home except fro essential activities," Edwards said. "Every doctor and scientist is advising me that we need to be extremely cautious moving forward and they are supporting the decision."

RELATED: Here's why Gov. Edwards said he had to extend the Stay at Home order

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