Louisiana Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate as Hospitals Fill

Carolyn Crist

August 03, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday that the statewide indoor mask mandate would restart on Wednesday to combat the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the very contagious Delta variant.

The mask mandate will apply to ages 5 years and older in indoor public locations, regardless of vaccination status. It will remain in effect until at least Sept. 1.

Edwards lifted the statewide mask mandate in April. On Monday, he pointed to statistics that show Louisiana has the highest number of new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation.

"This is bad. And it's not this bad anywhere else in the country today," he said during a news briefing with state hospital leaders, according to The Associated Press.

"It has become extremely clear that our current recommendations on their own are not strong enough to deal with Louisiana's fourth surge of COVID," he said. "In fact, nobody should be laboring under the misapprehension that this is just another surge. This is the worst one we've had."

The announcement came as the state's largest hospital — Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge — ran out of beds and called in a disaster medical assistance team to help with the surge in patients. COVID-19 hospitalizations have jumped from 36 to 155 patients in 2 weeks.

"There are no beds left," Catherine O'Neal, MD, the chief medical officer for the hospital, said on Monday.

"These are the darkest days of this pandemic," she said. "We are no longer giving adequate care to these patients."

Edwards noted that circumstances would grow worse in the short term and that the state would likely report the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations so far during the pandemic on Tuesday. The number of patients is close to 2000, which is 7 times the number of patients a month ago, the AP reported.

Edwards and O'Neal urged unvaccinated residents to get a shot to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Louisiana has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, the AP reported, which has allowed the Delta variant to spread among unvaccinated residents. About 43% of the state population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 37% is fully vaccinated.

During his presentation, Edwards also encouraged people to follow other precautions, such as avoiding crowded settings, getting tested after COVID-19 exposure, and working remotely when possible.

"We have the tools we need to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and save lives, and I am pleading with unvaccinated Louisianans to get their shot as soon as they can to protect themselves," he said. "We can end this nightmare, but it is going to take all of us working together to do it."

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