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St. Tammany Parish masks up as part of statewide mandate

Mandeville police said they will not be 'the mask police,' but asked residents to comply.

MANDEVILLE, La. — While some parishes like Jefferson and Orleans already had mask mandates in place, the new statewide order is a change for others like St. Tammany Parish. 

Band's Grocery in Mandeville just opened for the first time Monday, on the same day the statewide mask mandate went into effect. 

"First day of business today," owner of Band's Grocery, Pat Gallagher said. "Strangest of times, believe me."

Now Gallagher has to make sure not only his employees are masked up, but his customers too.

"They've all had one on," he said. 

He's seeing more people wearing masks across St. Tammany Parish now that it's required.

"As of today, yes. Not so much earlier in the week," Gallagher said. 

In response to the mandate, the Mandeville Police Department posted on Facebook Monday morning: "The Mandeville Police Department is NOT the 'mask police,'" the post said. 

"To our business owners, MPD is sympathetic to that fact that you are in a precarious position. We fully realize that many of you are financially struggling to pay employees and keep your shops and stores thriving while complying with, and enforcing the governor's order on your premises. Your police department is ever ready to help and support you.

To our shopping public, be mindful that the businesses you shop at did not create these rules. Please exercise patience and understanding. May we all stay safe!"

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Mandeville Police Chief Gerald Sticker sympathized with position business owners are in as they enforce the governor's order. 

"We're not going to arrest that person for not wearing a mask, but if that customer is causing a problem after their told to leave the business, worst case scenario, they can be arrested for remaining after being forbidden, but that is not what we want to do," Sticker said. 

He is encouraging the community to comply, to avoid causing problems at the businesses. 

"Remind them that this is not the business owners fault, be patient," he said. 

Over the weekend, St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper announced he was preparing an executive order regarding masks. This came at the same time Governor Edwards announced the statewide mandate.

"We had plans of issuing that mandate today," Cooper said. 

Cooper recognizes that many are still opposed to the idea.

"It's a small thing to ask," he said, encouraging the parish to cooperating. "I know enforcement is going to be difficult, locally it is the responsibility of the business owners to make sure the orders are complied with."

Businesses who don't enforce the mask mandate could be fined up to $500. 

"I think everybody's going to be cooperative, I hope so," Gallagher said, hoping his new business can thrive in the midst of this pandemic, masks and all. 

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