Coronavirus: Louisiana governor orders bars closed, mandatory face-coverings

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced new restrictions for bars and mandatory face-coverings during a Saturday news conference.

The governor made the announcement after Louisiana health officials reported more than 2,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, WWL-TV reported. Saturday’s increase of 2,167 new cases was the third-highest number since the pandemic began in Louisiana on March 9, the television station reported.

The restrictions will go into effect Monday at 12:01 a.m., Edwards said. Bars will be closed even if they have food permits, WAFB reported. Curbside service will still be allowed.

“If you don’t like the mask mandate, then don’t like it. But wear your mask anyway if you’re going to be out in public,” Edwards said. “If you want to criticize me, criticize me. This isn’t an easy thing to do. It’s hard. And I understand it’s going to be controversial. And I know that there are already wild and crazy things being said about masks and mask mandates. But so be it. It’s the right thing to do.”

The order will limit social gatherings in Louisiana to 50 people, down from 250, The Advocate reported. Parishes, however, will be allowed to opt out of face-covering mandates if there is a low incidence of COVID-19 cases. For now, only three rural parishes qualify low-under the criteria of fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period.  -- Grant, Red River and West Feliciana, the newspaper reported.

“Whether they opt-out or not is going to be a decision for them, but it is still strongly encouraged that everybody who is able to. ... wear a mask,” Edwards said.

The mask mandate is required for people ages 8 and older, unless they have a medical condition that prevents the wearing of a face-covering, the governor said.

Businesses can be fined up to $500 for violating the executive order, The Advocate reported. Patrons refusing to wear a mask and refusing to leave a business when asked to do so can be cited for trespassing, the newspaper reported.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she supported the governor’s decision.

“I thank Gov. Edwards for his leadership,” Cantrell told WWL. “None of this is easy, and no one wants to go backwards --- but public health and public safety must remain our top priority. Without a healthy population, there can be no economic recovery. We are all in this together.”

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