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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards: Expect extension of COVID mask mandate, bar closures

Greg Hilburn
Monroe News-Star
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards conducts as press conference on June 5, 2020.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he expects to extend the mask mandate, bar closures and other COVID restrictions beyond Aug. 7 when his current order is set to expire.

"People should not expect us to be making major changes every two weeks," Edwards said during a public press briefing. "I don't want people thinking there are going to be major changes. That doesn't seem likely based on current data."

Edwards will officially announce his decision next week, but sent a clear signal that the modified Phase 2 of reopening order will remain in place.

Though the governor said there are hopeful signs of a plateau in the infection based on a three-day run of fewer hospitalizations, "We remain No. 1 among states in per capita cases."

"There is more (COVID) in Louisiana than at any point up to now," Edwards said. "Every region's (percentage of) positivity (among tests) is over 10%. That concerns us tremendously."

Edwards said the mask mandate in particular will likely continue for weeks or months.

"This is the new normal," the governor said.

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LSU Health Sciences Center Chancellor G.E. Ghali joined Edwards at Thursday's briefing.

"It’s ridiculous to say one should not wear a mask," Ghali said. "As a surgeon I’ve worn a mask for over 30 years — not just to protect myself but to protect other patients.

"This most critical factor is masks ... and hand-washing," Ghali said. "That's the way to go.”

Edwards also addressed federal lawsuits filed by bar owners in the Acadiana and New Orleans-Houma regions to overturn his order closing their businesses.

"At the end of the day I believe the courts will understand I have the authority (to impose the order) and that it's absolutely essential," he said.

"Some venues are so conducive to spread they can't be opened safely and barrooms are one of the places, unfortunately," Edwards said. "I know it negatively impacts the livelihood of people, but it's absolutely necessary."

Watch replay:Gov. John Bel Edwards updates on Louisiana COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.